Mendoza: Quality of competition

Al Mendoza

I DON’T know if I will applaud or bash Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

When asked how he could be so confident the Tokyo Olympics will push through despite the now-serious threat of the Covid-19 spreading globally, Bach replied: “Because we talk to the experts.”

His experts are the top officials of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We are a sports organization and we follow the advice of the World Health Organization,” Bach told around 100 journalists, many of whom were wearing surgical masks.

The United Nations’ WHO holds offices only about 60 kilometers away from the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, not far from Geneva.

Already, the “China-made” coronavirus had infected more than 90,000 people worldwide and claimed over 3,100 lives, with Europe reporting deaths, too, notably Italy, with 19 casualties as of last count. The Vatican has reported one virus infection, necessitating a possible seclusion of the Pope.

Switzerland, IOC’s home country and which shares a border with Italy, has banned public gatherings of 1,000 people or more until mid-March, wrote AP’s Graham Dunbar.

Yet, Bach, in the presser, continued to avoid the words “cancel” or “postpone” in reference to the fate of the Olympics blasting off in July.

“I will not add fuel to the flame of speculation,” Bach said.

Even if the WHO would declare a pandemic?

“I will not take part in any way of such kind of mere speculations,” Bach said.

His confidence, Bach said, stems from his having met with WHO’s director general and seen the formation of a task force from the WHO, IOC and Japanese officials now working for “around three weeks” to monitor the virus route.

About 33 sports in the Tokyo calendar have been grappling with the ugly specter of qualifying events either canceled or postponed and venues changed. China’s athletes are stuck at home, their training abroad canceled.

Aren’t we risking quality of competition on July 24-Aug. 9?

Definitely, this Olympiad—held or not—will define Bach.