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International Games
Monday, January 25, 2021
IOC Athletes' Commission Candidates Split On Tokyo 2020

Greece's Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi - who urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone Tokyo 2020 last year - has supported the staging of the Games this year.

Stefanidi, who is standing for election to the IOC Athletes' Commission, claimed the majority of athletes wanted the Olympics to open on July 23.

This is despite increasing speculation about the staging of the Games as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of improving.

But Britain's two-time Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee, another candidate for election to the IOC Athletes' Commission, has urged organizers to not rush into a decision regarding the Olympics, which are scheduled to close on August 8th.

Stefanidi had claimed last March that around 80 per cent of athletes wanted Tokyo 2020 postponed or canceled, and accused the IOC of leaving athletes "at-risk" by going ahead with the Games.

Tokyo 2020 was then postponed to 2021 later that month.

"I think that it's a very different situation than what we had last year, where we didn't really know anything about the virus," Stefanidi told Kyodo News.

"But if we do this [survey] again, it will be reversed, then 80 per cent of the athletes would want the Olympics to go ahead."

Stefanidi also described the cancellation of Tokyo 2020 as the "worst-case scenario".

"I think if we have to have the Olympics without spectators, I would prefer that than not having the Games at all," she said.

"If we can have the Olympics with some spectators, that will be better of course - for me the worst-case scenario would be to completely cancel."

Stefanidi, who took gold in the women's pole vault at Rio 2016 with a jump of 4.85 meters, also sits on the World Athletics Athletes' Commission.

Concerns over the fate of Tokyo 2020 have intensified since the New Year, when a number of countries began to report a significant rise in coronavirus cases.

This is thought to be largely caused by more transmissible variants of COVID-19 and forced Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to declare a state of emergency in several areas, including the capital city Tokyo.

Public support for the Games is appearing to wane, with a recent Kyodo News survey finding around 80 per cent of Japanese people want this year's Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo to be canceled or postponed.

"We just donít know whatís around the corner with COVID, itís such a moveable beast," Brownlee told The Yorkshire Post.

"Last year all hell was breaking loose in March and April and by the time we got to July-August, football was on again, and you start thinking it might have been possible to have had the Olympics.

"But then again look how quickly it turned south a couple of months ago.

"So I donít think even the most well-informed person knows whatís around the corner and we all have to believe itís on until itís off.

"Given all that, my suggestion would be donít rush into a decision, but all the mitigation you possibly can in place so that if you can run it under not-so-ideal conditions - and theyíre not going to be ideal letís be honest - then you can do that."

The London 2012 and Rio 2016 gold medallist is also hoping to be elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission.

Elections to the body were delayed until this year after the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

The IOC confirmed it had extended the membership of the Athletes' Commission representatives whose terms would have expired at last year's Olympic Games.

Four athletes on the Commission - chairperson Kirsty Coventry, co-chair Danka BartekovŠ, France's Tony Estanguet, and James Tomkins of Australia, whose positions on the body carry automatic IOC membership - were due to be replaced last year.

In addition, an appointed member of the Commission, Stefan Holm of Sweden, was also set to end his term.
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