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For the first time ever the Olympic Games have been postponed. Three times before they were cancelled – in 1916 due to World War 1, and in 1940 and 1944 due to World War 2. The decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo because of the threat posed by Covid-19 seemed inevitable after Canada pulled out, followed by Australia’s Olympic Committee saying their athletes were unable to train properly. on Monday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. He asked him to postpone the event until next year and said Bach had “responded with 100% agreement”. That statement came before the IOC made its official announcement and it’s not clear if Abe jumped the gun or was forcing Bach to make up his mind. Bach had been dragging his feet, saying on 15th March that a decision to delay the Games would take four weeks. Nine days later the decision was made. Last week, Bach seemed reluctant to make any changes and made the astonishing claim that postponing the Games “would not solve any of the problems, or help anybody”. Undoubtedly the postponement creates many challenges for the sporting codes which have to reconfigure their calendars for next year, not to mention the hotels, tourism companies and spectators who will have to be refunded. But it would be bizarre in this age of social distancing to expect thousands of athletes and tens of thousands of spectators to congregate in one city for 16 days. The first South African sports body to react was SA Rugby, speaking on behalf of the national Sevens team which had secured automatic qualification to the Games last year. Already the Sevens calendar has been disrupted by Covid-19 with tournaments in Singapore and Hong Kong having been rescheduled. – David O’Sullivan
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said that the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, due to be held in Tokyo later this year, was disappointing news, but that the steps taken were necessary to assist in countering the Covid-19 pandemic.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee announced on Tuesday that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed. Rugby Sevens was one of the sporting codes due to be played in July in Tokyo.
“We realise this isn’t the news to Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell, his players and the team management, would have wanted to hear, as they were very hard at work to be in peak form for the global showpiece, but we are living in extraordinary times and these drastic steps are vital to ensure the safety of the players, team management, match officials and supporters,” said Roux.
“They had a solid plan in place for the Olympic Games, but desperate times call for desperate measures and it is important that we all take the necessary steps to try to contain this pandemic.
“I would like to thank the players, coaches and management for all their hard work spanning many months in order to prepare.”
Powell said despite the disappointment, everyone in the Blitzbok camp understands the situation.
“This is also a reminder of the seriousness and the scale of the pandemic,” said Powell.
“We’ll do whatever is needed to play our part in curbing this pandemic and make sure we adhere to the requirements as set down by the national government.”
The Blitzboks will go into full lockdown later this week later this week, as required by government, and will re-start training again in the next month if all goes according to plan.
“We are in constant consultation with SA Rugby leadership and all other relevant stakeholders, and will decide on the way forward following the completion of the lockdown.”
World Rugby said in a statement they supported the prudent and necessary decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to postpone the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“The health and safety of the athletes, fans, and everyone involved is our shared priority and responsibility and we believe the right decision has been taken in these very difficult and unprecedented circumstances,” the statement read.
World Rugby further indicated: “We look forward to working closely together in a spirit of partnership with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and all other stakeholders towards the rescheduling of the Games and our belief from the outstanding Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, is that the hosts will come out of this adversity stronger and more committed than ever before to deliver an exceptional Games.”
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