Olympic leaders back IOC's Tokyo stance after rare criticism

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A woman walks past a large display promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Friday, March 13, 2020. U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the spreading coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan's Olympic minister. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

GENEVA – Regional Olympic officials are rallying around the IOC and have backed its stance on opening the Tokyo Games as scheduled, as direct criticism from gold medalist athletes built amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Leaders of continental Olympic groups praised the IOC after a conference call Wednesday to update them on coronavirus issues four months before the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 24.

“We are living through an unpredictable crisis and as such, it is important that we have one policy, expressed by the IOC, and we follow that policy in unison,” the Italy-based European Olympic Committees said.

However, when the International Olympic Committee published an interview with its president, Thomas Bach, after a separate call with athlete representatives, it prompted a four-time Olympic champion to urge postponing the games.

Bach acknowledged that many athletes were concerned about qualifying events being canceled, but noted that there were still four months to go until the games are set to be opened.

“We will keep acting in a responsible way in the interests of the athletes,” Bach said.

British rowing great Matthew Pinsent wrote on Twitter that the comments from Bach, his former IOC colleague, were “tone deaf.”

“The instinct to keep safe (not to mention obey govt instructions to lock down) is not compatible with athlete training, travel and focus that a looming Olympics demands of athletes, spectators organisers,” Pinsent wrote. “Keep them safe. Call it off.”