Coe knows flexibility is needed but says springtime Olympics would not be ideal

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World Athletics is prepared to be flexible on the dates for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, but president Lord Coe appeared to indicate a springtime Games would not be ideal from a track and field perspective.

Initial discussions took place on Thursday between the International Olympic Committee and international sports federations about the best slot for the Games, which will now take place no later than the summer of 2021.

The IOC and the Japanese government announced on Tuesday that the Games were being postponed due to the acceleration of the coronavirus pandemic around the world.

IOC president Thomas Bach said no dates beyond the summer of 2021 had been ruled out, leaving open the possibility of a ‘cherry blossom Olympics’ next spring.

Coe said the spirit of Thursday’s meeting as it was relayed to him was one of co-operation and flexibility, but he did accept that peaking in April and May was difficult for an athlete.

“I wouldn’t disagree with that,” he said, when it was put to him that athletes rarely find their best form at that time of year.

“All the sports made pretty clear that they had particular challenges around particular times of the year, but I think the one overwhelming view around the table was ‘look, we’re probably not going to get a solution which meets with the approval of every sport, but there does have to be an element of flexibility’.

“I’m rather inclined to let the IOC get on with that deep dive (of speaking to sports on an individual basis). I think there is a recognition that the decision needs to be made as quickly as possible, because the athletes and the federations will always be seeking clarity.”

Athletics’ next World Championships are due to take place in Eugene, Oregon in August 2021, which would pose a problem if the Games were scheduled in the summer.

Coe said the organisers of the World Championships were open to discussions around the scheduling of that event, which could be moved to 2022.

“At this stage it’s fair to say nothing is on the table, nothing is off the table,” he said.

“But clearly it is an advantage in athletics not to have an Olympics and a World Championships in the same year.

“We have already had good discussions with Oregon and what I can report is Oregon are very clear that they will do whatever they can to help in our deliberations on this.

Coe expressed immense sympathy with Tokyo organisers, having led London’s delivery of the 2012 Games.

“By the time you get to the end of that seven-year journey, your teams are running on empty and that included the president, right the way down through the organisation,” he said.

“I am hoping that there is a recognition that there is exhaustion suffused with massive disappointment. It was the right decision, but if I was president of an organising committee in those circumstances I would want to be looking at how I would take some of that exhaustion away from my teams before they regathered for yet another year of delivery.

“For me that would be uppermost in my concern – managing the exhaustion and the disappointment all coming together in a perfect storm.

“I’m sure the Tokyo organising committee will be thinking about that.”

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