March 19 (Reuters) - Ensuring a level playing field for athletes during their Olympic preparations may not be possible due to the coronavirus pandemic but it is a challenge World Athletics will strive to overcome, its president Sebastian Coe said.
Europe has become the new epicentre of the flu-like virus that originated in China late last year and restrictions on movement in several nations have hit the training plans of athletes ahead of the July 24 to Aug. 9 Tokyo Games.
"Recent evidence suggests China seems to be pulling out of this but if you're living in Europe, you're an Italian distance runner and you're confined to your house, that's a massive challenge," Coe told The Times newspaper in an interview here
“Our sport has always been about fairness and a level playing field so we shouldn’t feel ashamed to set that as our ambition. The reality is that may not be possible in every case but we want to do what we can to drill down on that.
“Some are not able to train properly, some are not able to access public tracks or indoor facilities and we’re working to try and help them find these facilities.”
The virus has infected more than 212,000 people globally and caused 8,700 deaths so far, sparking concerns over the viability of the Games.
Coe, the driving force behind the success of London 2012 as chairman of the organising committee, said the problem faced by the Tokyo Games was bigger than the mass boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“I lived through Moscow and that was a crisis ... This has probably exercised more thinking time and expended more effort for federations than anything I can remember,” Coe added.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can to get our sport and our athletes into the best possible shape through a challenging time and get to an Olympic Games.” (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )