Safety concerns persist as IOC says Olympics without fans ‘something we don’t want’

Sports

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo will take place, and the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says the committee would prefer they happen with spectators.

Bach said Thursday the IOC is fully committed to holding the games and said that holding the competitions behind closed doors is “something we do not want.” However, it is exploring multiple scenarios for how they can take place safely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The IOC is expected to meet Friday to discuss additional details of what the Games could look like.

In March, the 2020 Olympics was pushed to next year because of the pandemic, and the Associated Press reported this week that the 2022 Dakar Youth Olympics have been postponed to 2026. Meanwhile, the Beijing Winter Olympics are still on for winter 2022.

Dr. Stephen Thomas, the Infectious Disease division chief at the Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, New York, says the current COVID-19 situation has a similar pattern to the 1918 flu pandemic, in which states experienced different peaks of infections depending on what interventions they made — including social distancing or canceling large events — and how soon they rolled back those interventions.

“Unfortunately, this is — this (increase in cases) was something that we hoped would not happen, but it clearly has and I think it’s a direct reflection on the early removal of those aggressive public health interventions that were initially implemented,” Thomas said.

As of Thursday morning, the United States reported more than 60,000 new cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. Japan had more than 300.

Thomas said he does not see fans as an option right now and that even without fans keeping people safe would be a challenge.

“Even if you just have the athletes and you have the people that support the athletes and you have the infrastructure that needs to be in place at the location of competition — that’s still tens of thousands of people. So I, you know, I really don’t see — without some major intervention coming, becoming widely available in a short period of time, namely a vaccine — I don’t see how there’s any other plan for an Olympics a year from now.”

Meanwhile, many athletes around the world are pivoting how they train in the middle of the pandemic, with many spending time in home gyms, local trails or their backyards.

  • CALI, COLOMBIA - JULY 01: Luz Adiela Alvarez trains at home on July 01, 2020 in Cali, Colombia. Alvarez Salazar belongs to Colombia national judo team and will compete for keeping her place in the next  Tokyo summer Olympics. Athletes are now training in isolation under  social distancing policies in place until July 15 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  (Photo by Gabriel Aponte/Getty Images)
  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 10: Olympic runner Molly Seidel runs during a training session on July 10, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.  Athletes across the globe are now training for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games in isolation under strict policies in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
  • MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 23: Team USA track and field athlete Shakima Wimbley trains in her home gym June 23, 2020 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
  • CAMPINAS, BRAZIL - JULY 03: Brazilian Athlete Marcio Teles warms up before a training session on a lawn in front of his house amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on July 3, 2020 in Campinas, Brazil. Marcio is a 400-meter hurdle runner and is qualified for the next Tokyo Olympics Games. He is a four-time Brazilian champion and three times world champion. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
  • POCOS DE CALDAS, BRAZIL - JUNE 19: Renato Rezende, a BMX Olympic athlete, in action during a training session in his house amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on on June 19, 2020 in Pocos de Caldas, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Kayle Browning, a sport shooter, has been fortunate in her training. She already had a regulation Olympic shooting range in her backyard, which her father built for her in 2006.

“It’s peaceful out here, I can shoot, my neighbors don’t complain because I don’t have any,” Browning said in an interview with Nexstar sister station KARK. “I mean I can literally walk out my front door and train which I need to.”

Others train in home gyms, like Team USA track and field athlete Shakima Wimbley, in their backyards like Brazilian hurdle runner Marcio Teles, or in their homes (sometimes in their living rooms) like Brazilian BMX athlete Renato Rezende or Colombian judo athlete Luz Adiela Alvarez.

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