March 23, 2020 / 10:25 AM / 9 days ago

IOC must be given time to decide Tokyo Games' future, says Lange

(Reuters) - Argentine sailor Santiago Lange said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) deserves more time to decide on potentially postponing the Tokyo Games but the well-being of athletes should be a top priority as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach speaks next to IOC Director of Communications Mark Adams at a news conference following the IOC executive board meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 29, 2015. Beijing and Almaty, bidding for the 2022 Games, are doing last-minute campaigning as the host city for those Olympics will be announced on Friday after a vote of IOC members in the Malaysian capital. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

On Sunday the IOC said it would hold discussions that would include an option of putting back the July 24 start date or even moving the Games by a year or more due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

Canada has since stepped up pressure on the organizers by boycotting the Games, while Australia told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics next year.

“It’s a moment to be together and I think the only solution is to take the decision day-by-day and to cancel the Games, we still have time,” Lange, who is bidding for a seventh Olympic appearance, told Reuters.

“I’m absolutely sure that the International Olympic Committee, the government of Japan or organization in Japan (TOCOG) plus the international health association (WHO) will not let the Olympics happen if there is any risk by any of the participants.”

Lange, 58, came back from having a cancer operation to win an emotional gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics but even he could not remember a stranger buildup to the Games.

More than 14,600 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began and its epicenter is now in Europe.

With opposition to holding the Games in July rising sharply over the last few days, the IOC said a decision on the Games’ future will be made within the next four weeks.

Lange said there is a possibility that the global health situation improves over the next four months but the IOC must prepare for every possibility.

“It could happen that you cancel the Games now and suddenly... a solution to this problem in any way is happened (and) Japan is clean by (July),” Lange added.

“I see this as a small percentage of possibility to happen but also, I guess if they cancel the Games, they need to have a plan B.

“They need to coordinate with other big sports around the world with the television (broadcasters), with the sponsors of all these big events. I think that coordination for sure cannot happen one day to another.”

Writing by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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