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‘Coronavirus Won’t Hamper BAA’s Olympic Preps’

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  • IOC will not cancel the Olympics due to coronavirus either
  • IAAF postponed championships due to coronavirus

TLOTLO KEBINAKGABO

The postponement of the World Athletics Indoor Championships will not disrupt the Botswana Athletics Association’s (BAA) preparations for the Olympics, the BAA president Phapane Botlhale told Gazette Sport recently. This if after the world athletics governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), announced in a statement released a fortnight ago that the championships would no longer take place in Nanjing, China from March 13-15 following the coronavirus outbreak in that country.

Figures published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last Friday state that there have so far been 40 637 confirmed cases of the virus globally, with 910 deaths. The UN body has declared the virus a global public health emergency.

According to IAAF, the advice they got from their medical team, which is in contact with WHO, is that the spread of coronavirus both within China and outside is still at a concerning level. WHO announced that no one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed.

“We have considered the possibility of relocating the event to another country and would like to thank the cities that have volunteered to host the championships,” the IAAF statement said. “However, given that concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China, we have decided not to go with this option, as it may lead to further postponement at a later date, to host this event.”

The championships will be held in March next year (dates to be confirmed), which the world athletics governing body believes gives Nanjing as the host city plenty of time to extensively plan and prepare for the event. But the postponement of the championships, according to Botlhale, will not affect their Olympics preparation schedule because BAA did not intend sending a big team to Nanjing. “This is because the competition takes place in a small indoor field whereas the Olympics are held in a normal outdoor field,” Botlhale noted. “So they were not going to benefit us in any way. They were, however, likely to bring us injuries as the small field in which they are held also causes athletes injuries in most instances.”

He told this publication that the outbreak of coronavirus does not affect their preparations for the world prestigious games in any way. This is because BAA is not planning to take their athletes out of Africa any time soon. “And we are assessing the coronavirus situation attentively as to when we send the athletes outside of the country,” he said. “We know which countries are affected.”

Perhaps more significally, the outbreak of the coronavirus will not disrupt the Tokyo 2020 Winter Olympic Games, where the leading sports events are to be held as planned, according to the vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Ugur Erdener. “The coronavirus has nothing to do with the 2020 Olympics as this outbreak won’t block the games,” Turkey’s Anadolu Agency quoted the IOC vice president as saying.

On the hand, the Chief Executive of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee, Toshiro Muto, said they are concerned about the impact that the spread of the virus inflicts on the build up to the games that are billed for 24 July to 9 August.

“We are extremely worried in the sense that the spread of the infectious virus could pour cold water on momentum for the games. “I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible,” Muto told the Japanese media before a meeting with the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).

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