'Nobody wins if everything is cancelled but already, everybody is losing' - Sonia's call to postpone Olympics

Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan is in favour of the Games being rescheduled for 2021.

Sonia O'Sullican won silver at Sydney 2000.
Sonia O'Sullican won silver at Sydney 2000.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IRISH OLYMPIC GREAT Sonia O’Sullivan has called for this summer’s Tokyo Games to be postponed.

With the current worldwide COVID-19 coronavirus, staging the 2020 Olympics as planned seems unrealistic, though no decision on its future has been made as of yet.

The International Olympic Committee [IOC] are in a difficult position, with both boxing and rowing cancelling their respective qualifiers.

At the weekend, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country is hopeful of hosting the games “without a hitch,” but that position seems increasingly less and less likely. He did hint today that the July/August event may be postponed.

And that’s the best option, according to O’Sullivan.

“You’d like to see the Olympics going ahead,” the Cork great told RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland today. “It’s such a big, iconic event. It’s a tough call, it really is.

The fairest way, might be, to have the Olympics in 2021. A lot of people will probably lose a lot of money. Nobody wins if everything is cancelled, but already, everybody is losing.

“Anyone who has booked tickets in recent times, even if you can change your flight, when do you change it to? You don’t know when everything will be back to normal again.

“Athletes and teams, it’s a logistical nightmare for everyone. There is time. It is possible it goes on, but it depends how controlled this pandemic can be.

I think I would be in favour of the Olympics being postponed until next year, as much as I would love for it to be on this summer.

Cobh native O’Sullivan, who won the 5,000m silver at Sydney 2000, added that she understands the predicament athletes are currently in. 

“You are in a bit of an unknown space,” the 1995 world champion continued. “You still have the goal and the target of the Olympics, but there’s always that thought in the back of your mind that it might not go ahead, particularly now with a lot of events being cancelled.

“The Australian National Championships and Olympic Trials have been cancelled, so that takes out your next marker along the way.

“All the spring marathons; London, Vienna, Rotterdam, Boston; they have all been postponed until later in the year and would be well beyond the Olympics if they do take place.

sonia-osullivan O'Sullivan receiving the Irish Life Health Hall of Fame award last year, on the occasion of her 50th birthday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s hard to commit fully to putting in a really hard effort if you are unsure if it is leading anywhere. Should you be managing your effort now so you can maintain fitness, putting yourself in a holding pattern?

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“There is uncertainty everywhere. It’s difficult to see that two weeks will be enough.”

She called for a definite decision to be made soon, and added:

“So many people have missed those qualifying opportunities across so many different sports. That’s not the most important thing, but it is in the Olympic athlete’s life.

The sooner the IOC make a decision, the sooner the athletes will be settled. You don’t need these extra questions. There needs to be something definite decided soon to put everyone at ease. They can’t just keep dragging it out.

“It’s the toughest question and I’m sure that’s why the IOC probably haven’t answered yet because they can’t find something that will work for everybody.”

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Emma Duffy

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