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Team Ireland expect Olympic Games to go ahead in spite of coronavirus fears

OFI CEO Peter Sherrard acknowledged that the situation may change, but it’s business as usual at the moment.

Logos are displayed at the opening of the venue for volleyball and wheelchair basketball at the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic games.
Logos are displayed at the opening of the venue for volleyball and wheelchair basketball at the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic games.
Image: Jae C. Hong

THE OLYMPIC FEDERATION of Ireland (OFI) remain confident the Olympic Games will go ahead in Tokyo as planned in spite of fears around the coronavirus. 

The outbreak of the virus has led to the postponing of number of sporting events in Japan, with J-League football called off until the middle of March and basketball games postponed until 11 March. 

This has cast doubt over the Olympics, which are due to begin in Tokyo on 24 July. 

While acknowledging the fluidity of the situation, OFI Chief Executive Peter Sherrard says that the Federation’s current view is that the games will go ahead. 

“We have to continue planning as we always would, it would be irrational not to. The advice from Tokyo, and they are working with the IOC and the national government on this, is that they believe the Games will go ahead.

“From our point of view, that is realistic as it is still five months away and a lot can happen. That said we’re not being complacent about it, and we will continue to follow the advice of the IOC and [Tokyo Organising Committee] on it.” 

Dick Pound, the longest serving-member of the IOC, said yesterday that a decision on whether to postpone or cancel the Games would likely take place in May. 

“They [the IOC] haven’t put a date on it”, said Sherrard when Pound’s comments were raised, “and it would be one to ask them. I’m not sure Dick’s comments reflect their thinking on it, but you’d have to ask them.” 

Some Conservative politicians in England have raised the prospect that London would be ready to step in to host the Games at short notice, but Sherrard played down such a prospect.

“I think that’s just political grandstanding, as such. They genuinely believe based on the best medical advice that the Games will take place in Japan. They have said themselves they have to keep monitoring it. It could change, it’s a moving situation and it’s very early to say.

“Nobody probably foresaw Italy was going to be a centre. It’s a reality at some point Ireland is going to have some cases, the UK already has some cases. It’s a moving situation.

“It’s still five months to the Games, which is a lot of time to pass. It would be irrational for us to do anything different, other than keep planning.” 

peter-sherrard Peter Sherrard - File Photo. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Sherrard also confirmed that the OFI have not explored the potential financial cost of the cancellation of the Games. 

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“It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of money that we have already spent, we haven’t done any great review on it at this point as it’s not something we genuinely think is going to happen. But there would be some fall-out, some of which would be covered by insurance.” 

Tokyo-bound hockey international Anna O’Flanagan says she and the rest of the Irish squad are not too preoccupied with the virus at the moment. 

“To be honest, it’s something that’s totally out of our control as athletes. We just have to keep focussed on the bigger picture. For us right now, we don’t really talk about it and just focus on our performance.” 

The OFI today announced that all Irish athletes will fly business class to the Games for the first time. They will do so via Doha with Qatar Airways, and will have access to full-lie flat beds and catering to suit their nutritional routine. The Federation have made a €10,000 donation to Irish overseas development agency Vita to offset their carbon footprint. 

The OFI have also come to an agreement with athletes that will allow them promote their own personal sponsors on social media throughout the Games. Athletes will have to wear approved logos during the games, however, which means that, for example,  Rory McIlroy will have to swap his personal Nike gear for Adidas apparel, given they are kit supplier to Team Ireland. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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