Coronavirus: Italian sports officials ask IOC to reconsider going forward with the Olympics

Two senior sports executives from Italy are asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revise their stance on holding the Olympics as scheduled in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic. Giovanni Petrucci, the president of the Italian basketball federation and former president of the Italian Olympic Committee, and Paolo Barelli, the president of the Italian and European swimming federations, made their case to the IOC through interviews with the Associated Press.

“I’m not against the Olympics. But saying that the Olympics will still go on is a big mistake in communication,” Petrucci said. “This pandemic is affecting the entire world. I know about the billion-dollar contracts, the insurance deals. I know it all. But human life is worth more than all of those things.”

“I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this way. Others just don’t want to say it. I don’t want to attack the IOC. There are too many people there that I know. But I don’t know what else to say. I’m not trying to create controversy. I’m a realist. Look at the medical bulletins.”

Barelli, meanwhile, called for a decision to be made sometime in April, and also for that decision to consider that athletes forced into isolation and quarantine have not properly trained in weeks or months.

“Athletes are like clocks. They have to train and function impeccably. Many of them still have to qualify, so they need to train not only to qualify but also for the Olympics,” he said. “So any date after mid-April becomes very complicated.”

He specifically spoke of the Italian water polo team, who haven’t trained for two weeks as a result of Italy closing down all sports 10 days ago, and most pools throughout the country being shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19 — Italy recently overtook China as the country with the most deaths from the disease.

“Those that are lucky enough to have their pool open and near their homes can train,”  Barelli said. “But if the pool is 100 or 200 kilometers (60-125 miles) away, how can they? The venues are operated by sports clubs and cities that can’t afford to keep them open for two or three people.”

“They’re not training in ideal conditions. If this situation continues like this into April, talking about the Olympics is ridiculous.”

Regional Olympic officials took a stand on Thursday to back the IOC’s decision to move forward with the Tokyo Games as scheduled, oddly citing the importance of following a consistent policy through these inconsistent times.

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