Sebastian Coe says delaying Olympics relieved 'mental turmoil' of athletes

  • ‘Sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat,’ says Coe
  • Athletes’ wellbeing became the priority in postponing Games

Sebastian Coe has said the postponement of the Olympics was necessary in order to safeguard the psychological wellbeing of athletes because many were in “mental turmoil” not knowing if the Tokyo Games were to proceed as scheduled.

The 2020 Olympic Games were postponed last Tuesday in response to the coronavirus pandemic following talks between Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach.

Two weeks ago Lord Coe, the president of World Athletics, had been circumspect, saying “anything is possible” and emphasising the difficulties of moving the Games to 2021. He now concedes events necessitated action.

“We’re no different from everyone else out there but we just concluded that sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat,” Coe told TalkSport. “We didn’t want to have the athletes in a position where they were countering government advice, maybe even breaking the law.

“And of course in the back of their minds was always that concern, it wasn’t just their own training programme, but that they ran the risk of effectively infecting themselves, their families, their kids, grandparents or parents, and we just wanted to take them out of that mental turmoil as quickly as we possibly could.”

Bach has setup an IOC taskforce called Here We Go whose brief is to work with 33 international sports federations about setting new dates for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Among the considerations is staging the Games in the spring of next year. “The agreement is that we want to organise these Games at the latest in the summer 2021,” Bach said. “This is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table including the summer 2021.”

The new head of UK Athletics has vowed to restore belief in an organisation that has been mired in controversy. Joanna Coates, appointed chief executive late last year, is well aware of the negative focus triggered by the results of its independent review into the handling of Alberto Salazar, Mo Farah’s former coach. Neil Black, the UKA performance director, became the latest senior figure to leave his role before another review was launched, this time by UK Sport.

IOC president Thomas Bach has created a taskforce.
The IOC president, Thomas Bach, has created a taskforce to come up with new dates for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

“The board has given me the remit to make changes to ensure this organisation gets back to where it should be,” Coates told the Sunday Telegraph. “There will be major change in the organisation, and that doesn’t just mean people. That means policy, procedures, how we liaise with other organisations.”

“I do not want medals at all costs. I hope Dina [Asher-Smith] wins. I believe she will and we want her to. But it’s about her story, her journey in athletics and what athletics can bring to anybody that participates. That’s what it should be about.”


Ewan Murray

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tokyo Olympics team has 'cast-iron will' for 2021 event, says Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe said he has ‘a pretty high level of confidence’ the Tokyo Games will happen in 2021 despite daily coronavirus cases in Japan reaching a record level this week

Sean Ingle

10, Dec, 2020 @5:58 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe warns it will be harder than ever to cheat at Tokyo Olympics
Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president, said athletics drug cheats will be ‘fearlessly weeded out’

Sean Ingle

22, Dec, 2020 @5:00 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics could be delayed due to coronavirus, admits Sebastian Coe
The World Athletics president has admitted ‘nobody is saying we will be going to the Games come what may’ as the debate over whether the Tokyo Olympics should be staged this summer continues to intensify

Sean Ingle

19, Mar, 2020 @1:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe shrugs off concerns that Nike track spikes give unfair advantage
The World Athletics president has warned against stifling innovation as concerns have been raised over the slew of recent world records

Sean Ingle

03, Jan, 2021 @10:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe backs ‘purple patch’ Laura Muir to paint Tokyo gold in 2020
Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic champion, said there is ‘no question’ Laura Muir can win middle-distance gold at next year’s Tokyo Olympics

Sean Ingle

04, Mar, 2019 @9:59 PM

Article image
Team GB athletes ‘in a panic’ before Olympics after teammates isolate
Several Team GB athletes have spoken of their panic and trepidation after six of their teammates were forced to self-isolate after a passenger on their flight to Tokyo tested positive for Covid

Sean Ingle in Tokyo, and Tumaini Carayol

19, Jul, 2021 @4:00 PM

Article image
Team GB's Olympic contenders should seek advice from Ennis-Hill, says Coe
Sebastian Coe has urged Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson to seek advice from Jessica Ennis-Hill before Tokyo Games

Sean Ingle

31, Dec, 2020 @10:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe expects Tokyo Olympics to go ahead after test event in Japan
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has reiterated that the Tokyo Olympics will take place in July despite the rising number of Covid cases in Japan

Sean Ingle

05, May, 2021 @12:01 PM

Article image
Coe warns Christian Coleman not to expect Olympic deal over missed tests
Sebastian Coe has warned Christian Coleman not to expect any special deals for the Tokyo Olympics if he is banned for missing anti-doping tests

Sean Ingle

25, Jun, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Coe claims Mboma’s Tokyo 200m silver shows testosterone rules are working
Christine Mboma was not allowed to run 400m due to controversial rules due to her naturally high levels of testosterone, and Sebastian Coe said her fast finish in the 200m ‘vindicated’ that decision

Sean Ingle at the Olympic Stadium

04, Aug, 2021 @1:08 PM