‘Prepare as well as you can’: Mitchell to Pacific Olympic hopefuls

Will the 2020 Olympics still go ahead in July as scheduled? The International Olympic Committee says it will make a call within the next four weeks. Options could include a scaled-down version of the Games, a delay of several months, or rescheduling the Olympics to mid-2021.

In the meantime, Oceania National Olympic Committee (ONOC) President Dr Robin Mitchell has urged Pacific athletes to “continue to prepare as well as you can , always refer to your World Health [Organisation] representative if there’s one locally, or moreso your Ministry of Public Health and fit in with the government regulations… but find ways to continue training.”

Last week an official statement from ONOC quoted Dr Mitchell as saying: “ONOC fully supports the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in its commitment to stage the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“We share the view that we must be realistic but not panic.”

Speaking to Islands Business, Dr Mitchell said  quite a few Pacific athletes continue to be based overseas: “in Japan , some in China, some in China during the worst crisis couldn’t get out; Tonga, Solomons, Vanuatu and probably Samoa as well because they had been training there before the Games. For Fiji I think there’s athletes in Japan, in Tokyo, near Narita.”

He says managing qualifications is currently one of the biggest concerns.

“We have six sports in Fiji that still have to qualify. [For qualification events] Fiji was hosting two, swimming and archery in April so both have been cancelled.”

Dr Mitchell says globally, 53 per cent of athletes have already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

“Most of April’s qualifications have been cancelled, we’ve agreed to  extend the qualification date to the end of June and now we have to find countries that will host them, these qualifying events within the continent boundaries. For Oceania we have nine sports that have to qualify in Asia , one in Africa so logistically, it becomes expensive if we’re not able to have these confined tournaments for whatever reason, then selection will be based on ranking lists from previous competitions, which is difficult because people are improving,” Dr Mitchell says.

Fiji’s strongest Olympic prospect is its sevens rugby team. Dr Mitchell says given both the men’s and women’s teams have qualified:  “they would need to actively lobby their president and  officials so they can continue to train.” In the meantime he says players should continue with their indidual programs. Meanwhile plans by overseas rugby teams to come and train in Fiji have been deferred.

Despite the uncertainly, Dr Mitchell says the IOC needs to continue preparations due to the logistical requirements of coordinating 30 sports, security and other arrangements.