Adam Peaty: Guilt to perform taken off Olympic athletes by Tokyo 2020 postponement

Adam Peaty is one of a number of Team GB athletes who have spoken of their relief after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed until 2021.

The 2020 Games has been postponed by one year until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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They were due to be held in Japan from July 24 to August 9, while the Paralympics was set to run from August 25 to September 6, but both have now been rescheduled for next year.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says the Games will be held no later than the summer of 2021 but the event will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Peaty, who was preparing to defend his gold medal in the 100m breaststroke, says the pressure has been lifted off the athletes who do not feel obliged to put on a show despite the circumstances.

“I think a lot of athletes now can breathe. They’ve got no pressure to train, they’ve got no pressure to compete,” he told Sky Sports News.

“The Olympic Games are the biggest sporting event on the planet and cost billions of pounds to hold, so when you’re talking about shifting it a few months away it’s a big ask.

“This is for the better of not just the Japanese nation, but of the world, of humanity. We want to be putting on a show in 2021 when we don’t feel guilty to perform in and we can hopefully inspire people to do better and be better.”

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Gemili: Social distancing has made training ‘near impossible’

Team GB sprinter Adam Gemili also says he is relieved to have the clarity of postponement because it has been “near impossible” to maintain his training programme whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.

“It’s a big relief to finally get that clarity. Now we can start setting up the rest of our year and adjusting, making new plans for next summer rather than having to really cram everything in,” Gemili told Sky Sports News.

“Not just for me, but for every athlete around the world it’s been near impossible with the lockdowns and social distancing.

“If the Olympics would have been staged and we were training the way we had been, the quality of the Games wouldn’t have been the highest so I think we’re a bit relieved that it’s been postponed officially.”

Ansley hoping Team GB athletes don’t drop out

The postponement also means disruption to athletes’ plans outside of the Games, whether that be a planned retirement after Tokyo 2020 or others who may have deferred university degrees which need to be completed in 2021.

Giselle Ansley, a member of Team GB’s women’s hockey team, says she hopes competitors do not have to give up their Olympic dream due to the date change.

“Some people were definitely planning on retiring and when you think you are four months away and suddenly you are 16 months away – it is a massive change,” she told Sky Sports News.

“We have a lot of youngsters in our team who were planning to go back to university and finish their degrees.

“Those plans do have to change and over the next few weeks and months there will conversations around that, how other things can be changed and switched around.

“I hope [the Team GB squad] will remain how it is. People have trained for many, many years for the opportunity and I reckon they will give it a shot to try to get there in a year’s time. This squad has done a lot of hard work over the last four years. Hopefully the same team can go to Tokyo in 2021.

“It’s not like Premier League football [and the finances that come with that] , it’s a lot of hard work.”

Q&A: Was Tokyo 2020 postponement inevitable?

by Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes…

Is postponing the Olympics the correct decision?

Judging by the actions of the Canadian and Australian Olympic Committees in withdrawing their teams on Monday, and a plethora of athletes calling for the IOC to postpone the Games, then it seems clear cut that the decision will have the backing of most.

Now the Games have been officially postponed, it’s difficult if not impossible to find a voice criticising the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organisers for their decision. In the UK, there is a chorus of agreement from the British Olympic Association (BOA), British Paralympic Association (BPA), UK Sport, the Government and many, many athletes.

Should organisers have waited this long?

This is where that chorus of agreement is no longer in tune with the IOC. Why is it only now that the Olympics have been postponed, when the rest of the sporting calendar has been pretty much shut down including football’s European Championships?

Athletes have been saying for days if not weeks that they need clarity from the IOC and Tokyo 2020. While the IOC was telling athletes to prepare as normal for a July start, many test events and Olympic sport competitions were being postponed or cancelled, so the message was very confusing. “How can we prepare if we have no competition to get ready? How can we train if our facilities for training are shut?” were recurring questions.

From the IOC’s standpoint, it’s been the most difficult peacetime decision the organisation has had to make. Three times during periods of war the Olympics were cancelled, but never have a Games been postponed.

There is also the issue of the contract between the IOC and Tokyo. The Host City Agreement states that the IOC has the right to withdraw hosting of a Games if it does not take place in an Olympic year. Clearly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the situation that faces both the IOC and Tokyo could not have been foreseen, but it is not in a legal document.

Given the cost of staging Tokyo 2020 is somewhere in the region of £12.5 billion, the complexity of the commercial and sponsorship contracts let alone global broadcasting deals, the IOC has had a fair bit of work on its hands.

Nevertheless, given the actions of UEFA, of domestic football leagues and other sports throughout the world in the past few weeks, many people will be asking if the IOC’s steadfast commitment to hosting the Games come what may was a position that looks a little ill-judged now.

Did the IOC and Tokyo 2020 only react because of the withdrawal of teams by Canada and Australia?

It will be a factor that focused minds along with the growing noise from athletes around the world urging the IOC not just for clarity, but to postpone the Olympics.

The IOC will argue that one of their key markers in decision making was advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) who have in the last 24 hours confirmed to the IOC that the growth of the pandemic is now alarming.

What does this mean for athletes?

At least they now know what is happening. Many athletes were feeling awkward about the prospect of competing at Tokyo 2020 this summer when all other sport was postponed or cancelled, and people around the world were suffering.

In terms of preparation, it will be a blow – from archery to boxing, canoeing to rowing, shooting and track and field, athletes have been honing their skills to be the very best they could be this July and August.

The Olympics are the pinnacle for many sports, so peaking is centred around a few weeks every four years. Athletes will have to adjust to whenever the Games are rearranged, it’s as simple as that. The rest of the world is rearranging their lives, so it is no different for any prospective Olympian.

In terms of funding, UK Sport CEO Sally Munday has sent out a welcome message to funded athletes saying they will not have to repay any money they received helping them get to Tokyo 2020. They will also be working with Government to come up with a plan to help athletes financially as they look towards a potential Olympics in 2021.

Will athletes now take time off and start again?

Some will, some won’t. Some athletes cannot train right now due to lockdown restrictions; some may be able to do something, if not quite the usual. What is clear is that any thoughts of competitive sport are off the agenda right now.

Lord Coe, president of World Athletics, has suggested he will look to alter the timetable of the athletics season – start later and finish later this year, and work around athletes’ needs in 2021. Coronavirus has meant that people from all walks of life have to compromise and make sacrifices. Sport is no different.

Where personal human stories may become quite emotional is for athletes who were hoping to retire after Tokyo 2020. Can they drag aging bodies to their fitness and mental levels required at a later date? Some will do so, others will not have the chance.

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