Coronavirus: Olympic champion blasts IOC for putting athletes ‘in danger’

Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi is warning that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is putting athletes around the world “in danger” by encouraging them to train during the global coronavirus pandemic.

“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” Stefanidi posted on Twitter Tuesday.

“You (the IOC) are putting us in danger right now, today.”

Stefanidi, who won gold in pole vault at the 2016 Olympics for Greece, made these remarks the same day the IOC released a statement encouraging athletes from around the globe — including those whose countries have imposed strict measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 — to continue preparing for the Olympics “as best they can.”

While the IOC statement recognized the “unprecedented” nature of the new coronavirus outbreak — even calling it a “crisis” — it reiterated the organization’s commitment to hosting the Games without delay or modification.

The Olympics are scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug. 9 in Tokyo. The Games typically bring together more than 10,000 athletes from 190 countries, plus hundreds of thousands of tourists and spectators.

“With more than four months to go before the Games, there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive,” the statement said.

But athletes from around the world, including Stefanidi, have begun to question the IOC’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak, adding that it’s about what conditions are like for people now, not four months from now when the Games are scheduled to begin.

“We’re trying to follow information with how to continue safely whilst reducing the risk to everyone around us and the information of the IOC and the local government are at odds,” British heptathlete and world champion Katerina Johnson-Thompson said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Canadian hockey star and Olympic champion Haley Wickenheiser also said Tuesday that the IOC was acting irresponsibly by refusing to acknowledge that the Games could be cancelled or delayed.

“To say for certain (the Olympics) will go ahead is an injustice to the athletes training and global population at large,” Wickenheiser wrote on Twitter.

“The IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.”

IOC will not budge

Olympic organizers, including the IOC and Japan’s government, have refused to acknowledge that the Games could be delayed, cancelled or affected in any way due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

In its Tuesday statement, the IOC quoted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has repeatedly said the Games will proceed without delay or disruption.

“I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus,” Abe said earlier this week.

Despite repeated questions from Global News and other media outlets, the IOC and its president Thomas Bach have refused to acknowledge if they have contingency plans for hosting the Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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