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Olympic postponement 2020: abrupt change of course – DER SPIEGEL


The history of the modern Olympic Games lasts 124 years. Since 1896, the games have been canceled five times during two world wars. Now they have been postponed for the first time. The 32nd edition of the Tokyo Summer Games is scheduled to take place in early summer 2021. The three partners of this multi-billion dollar joint venture only reached an agreement on Tuesday morning in excited telephone conferences: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

A little later, Shinzo Abe made a statement in Tokyo. The IOC only sent the statement from the three business partners more than half an hour later. How dramatically everything had happened can be seen in further details: Bach only called a conference call from his IOC Executive Committee when Abe was already in front of the cameras and explained the shift. The 33 world sports associations in the Tokyo program and their umbrella organization ASOIF were not involved in the decision-making process and were caught cold. They received a note from the IOC long after the decision, when Abe had already announced it.

The anger is great. However, none of the association presidents who chose hearty words in confidential discussions with SPIEGEL did not want to be quoted. Thomas Weikert, President of the World Table Tennis Association ITTF, expressed himself diplomatically. "Of course I am relieved about this overdue decision," Weikert told SPIEGEL. "But I am also irritated. We consulted with Thomas Bach a week ago, who demanded solidarity from us. Now we were not involved in the decision-making process." Some interviewees consider the early definition of 2021 to be wrong. For one thing, nobody knows whether the global corona pandemic has subsided and been defeated by then. On the other hand, the outstanding Olympic qualification competitions would have to start in spring, which, like now, could put you under additional time pressure. In Japan, even May 21, a Friday, is to be negotiated as a possible opening day for the summer games. The joint statement by the IOC and the Japanese states literally that the games should be played "no later than the summer of 2021".

Criticism of the definition of the year 2021 – but not everywhere The world athletics association WA, however, the most important Olympic professional association, has already cleared its date for the 2021 World Cup in Eugene (Oregon). The World Cup was planned from August 6th to 15th, 2021. The WA, led by Sebastian Coe, Olympic champion and chief organizer of the 2012 Summer Olympics, announced that everything had been resolved with the Americans. The World Cup could be held on other dates, including 2022. Sebastian Coe, this is important in this context, should be admitted to the IOC at the next IOC general assembly, which was actually planned for Tokyo. He had his skirmishes with Bach on the Russian state doping system. But he was a close friend of the IOC President for many years, with whom he began his career in sports politics in 1981 in the IOC Athletes' Committee. One called the buddy "Shakespeare", the other his German friend "Goethe". Sports policy is negotiated at such levels. Maybe two will find each other again.

The wording of the IOC communiqué is once again unmasking. Bach and Abe are referred to several times as "the two leaders". Thomas Bach traditionally sees himself on an equal footing with the heads of state and presidents of the world. It then says: "The two leaders agree that the Tokyo Olympics are a beacon of hope for the world in these troubling times." The Olympic flame will remain in Japan and "could be the light at the end of the tunnel" that shows the world the way out of the crisis. It could not be more modest. Over the past few days, participants in the switching conferences with Bach have reported several times that the games are sold argumentatively as a great celebration of the victory over the corona virus. The IOC in its statement on Sunday avoided the word pandemic and only spoke of serious problems in "some countries on some continents". Today there was talk of a pandemic and also referred to yesterday's statements by the World Health Organization (WHO). There has been no decisive change in the situation since Sunday, when the IOC committed itself to four weeks, unanswered questions and speculations Numerous unanswered questions and some speculations accompany the abrupt change of course after Thomas Bach only six days ago after declaring the unit 33 professional associations and 206 National Olympic Committees (NOK), still rigorously claiming that there was no reason for hasty decisions. Some details suggest that NOK statements requesting a quick shift may have been orchestrated by the IOC. In doing so, Bach wanted to put pressure on the apparently even more stubborn Japanese business partners. Some of these NOK statements read softly, without any criticism of the course of the IOC. Others, like that of the NOK of Portugal, allege that the IOC is risking the health of athletes. The textual criticism reveals enormous differences. João Paulo Almeida, director of the Portuguese NOK, told SPIEGEL that his umbrella organization had not been drawn up in front of a cart.
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