19 March 2020
Thomas Bach held a video conference with the Heads of the European NOCs
On March 18, the IOC President Thomas Bach held a video conference with the Heads of the European NOCs on the upcoming XXXII Olympic Games in Tokyo.
First of all, the Head of the International Olympic Committee noted that the spread of coronavirus was a serious problem that required a careful and unified approach of all the member countries of the Olympic movement. The IOC President expressed satisfaction with the fact that at present the Olympic community was showing solidarity and looked forward with hope. However, Thomas Bach emphasized that the main difficulty lied in the rapidly changing situation. Today it’s hard to say what the situation will be in a few days and, especially, in a few weeks. The members of the Working Group established by the IOC with the involvement of experts from the World Health Organization agree that this is not the time to make radical decisions, since there are another 4 months ahead of the scheduled start of the Games in Tokyo, and some forecasts anticipate an improvement in the fight against coronavirus after 2-2.5 months. The most important task of everyone who now safeguard rights and interests of athletes is to prevent speculation, rumor and factoids.
Thomas Bach supported the words spoken earlier by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who plans to hold the Tokyo Olympics on time to demonstrate to the whole world that humanity is stronger than a pandemic.
Thomas Bach, like representatives of the European Olympic Committees who spoke during the conference, particularly focused on the difficulties in completing the qualification due to the cancellation of competitions and the closure of the borders of many states. At the same time, 57% of athletes have already been qualified, the remaining 43% of quotas will be distributed differentially, based on the understanding that all countries are now in different positions.
In this regard, the IOC President presented to the European Olympic Committees the principles and criteria developed taking into account recent events and the outcomes of consultations with the International Sports Federations:
1. All places under quotas that have already been allocated to date remain with the NOCs and the athletes that received them.
2. The opportunity remains to use existing and planned qualification competitions whenever and if they guarantee fair access for all athletes and teams.
3. All necessary changes in qualifications for the Games and any allocation of the remaining vacant places will be carried out according to the following criteria:
- a) based on current results (for example, ranking of the International Federations or previously achieved results);
- b) comply, where possible, with the existing principles of the relevant qualification systems (for example, using ratings or results of continental/regional competitions).
Any increase in quotas will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The President of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, as part of his speech, noted that the difficulties the Olympic movement faced were indeed unprecedented, but the solidarity that all its members showed had to ultimately lead to a successful solution of the problems.
Head of the ROC: “The Russian NOC has vast experience in overcoming crisis situations, and in the current circumstances it is extremely important to demonstrate unity.”
Stanislav Pozdnyakov also noted that uncertainty and speculation really hurt athletes, and expressed the hope that issues with qualifications would be resolved objectively, and the principles discussed would start to act in the very near future.
The EOC Head, Janez Kocijančič, as well as representatives of the European NOCs who took part in the video conference, unanimously supported the IOC’s proposals on the suggested principles and criteria, and also recognized unreasonable to make hasty radical decisions.
In addition to communicating with the Heads of the European NOCs, Thomas Bach held a conference call with representatives of athletes, during which he stated that the International Olympic Committee would act exclusively in the interests of athletes.
“We had an extremely important and useful conversation with 220 athletes from around the world,” the IOC Head noted. “Today we face serious problems related to the system of qualification for the Olympic Games and the restrictions in force in many countries. The International Olympic Committee will continue to act in the interests of Olympic sports and athletes, following two basic principles: safeguarding the health of the members and preventing the spread of the virus.
Kirsty Coventry, the Chairperson of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, encouraged colleagues to continue doing their thing. However, she noted that the situation was changing every day.