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2021 Tokyo's only chance, says Pound

By MURRAY GREIG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-22 09:00
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International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound, poses in his offices in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Feb 26, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Senior IOC member believes Games can't be delayed any longer than a year

If the Tokyo Olympics are not held next year, they likely won't be held at all.

That's the opinion of two-time International Olympic Committee vice-president Dick Pound of Canada, who doesn't foresee the IOC being able to delay the Tokyo Games beyond 2021.

"The Japanese have said we can keep the ball up in the air for a year, but not longer than a year," Pound said in a weekend interview with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. "We really have to hope that we get this act together in time for 2021."

The Games were officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 24 and are now scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug 8 next year.

"The Japanese Olympic Committee says, 'It's important to us and, yes, we think we can do that.' Then by all means, yes, let's give the kids a chance, let's give the world a chance to weather this storm," Pound said.

"Come back and we can emerge from an existential threat to humanity with this huge gathering of the youth of the world."

With worldwide enforcement of strict physical-distancing guidelines, the thought of 11,000 international athletes congregating in one place might seem outlandish, but Pound said the universality of the Olympics is what makes the Games so great.

"It's a really intricate tapestry when you look at all the arrangements," the 78-year-old told CBC. "But that said, it's a huge benefit having an event that's not just a series of world championships brought together in a television studio. It's the people reacting with people that really matters."

Pound represented Canada in swimming at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, placing sixth in the 100m freestyle, and won four medals at the 1962 Commonwealth Games. He said the experience of interacting with international athletes outside of his own sport ignited his lifelong passion for the Olympics.

President of the Canadian Olympic Committee from 1977-82, Pound served as IOC vice-president from 1987-91 and from 1992-96. He also chaired the commission that oversaw the Olympic bribery scandal in 1999 and was the first chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), serving through 2007.

His message to athletes and fans alike is simple: Patience.

"Hang in there. We're trying to preserve that experience for you. It's postponed a little but you're resilient. If you're an athlete, you learn a lot more from your setbacks than you do from your wins," Pound said.

"Everybody in the world hopes that this event can be put back together next year and the world will have a chance to see you in action. You'll have a chance to do your best and everybody will feel good about the outcome."

Beyond the athletes, the financial impact of postponing the Tokyo Games will reverberate across the globe.

"I think what we're likely to find, somewhat to our horror, is that many of the international sports federations are so dependent on their share of Olympic revenues that they really can't carry on at the level they're doing now, or would like to do, without making some changes," Pound said.

One of the alternatives the IOC is considering to cut costs-placing the Summer Olympics permanently in Greece-is unlikely, he added.

"It's completely impractical and the Games are so universal now that they're not Greece's Games-they belong to the world," he said.

"And it's very hard to say to all of the rest of the world, 'Sorry, you're just out of luck. Don't even think about applying to be host.'"

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