Tokyo Olympics still stuck between questions of if or when

Sport Ireland hold counsel on prospect of whether athletes should be vaccinated early

A woman takes a selfie in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

A woman takes a selfie in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

 

Rarely have any Olympics been so tightly pressed between questions of if or when. Firstly, if they should go ahead last July in the face of Covid-19 or when they would be postponed. The answer there was provided promptly enough at the end of last March.

Now, as well as the if or when they may still be cancelled outright, the question is also about what happens if or when Tokyo-bound athletes get a vaccine in advance of other participating countries, and indeed if or when governments have any say on that.

For now Sport Ireland suggest that’s a question for another day, chief executive John Treacy and Dr Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics, also saying the answer will ultimately be up to any government or health recommendations.

“That’s not for us (to decide) at the moment,” said Treacy. “Obviously we have information in terms of what is happening in Tokyo at the moment, so that’s for down the road, but not too far down the road.”

In terms of the vaccine rollout impacting on the resumption of all domestic sport, indoors or out, Dr May added: “When it comes to national level sport and participation, and grassroots sport, what we have are really strong protocols in place to protect people, and it goes with the messaging to the population when we want to get them back to sport, that they trust in the mechanism and protocols in place when they do.”

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) last week asked the government to allow athletes to jump the queue as the country’s national vaccine program struggles with roadblocks. A number of other countries including Israel and Croatia have also announced plans to have all their athletes vaccinated in advance of Tokyo.

Paul McDermott, director of high performance at Sport Ireland, hinted that any such decision within an Irish context may be pending: “It’s a timing issue, and we have information about the ideal time, when it’s needed, and we’re trying to follow what the IOC are saying. But we can’t be definite today. We’re heading towards a timeline, but we’re not there yet.

“It is been discussed all the time, obviously in Ireland and internationally, but we have to aware of the wider discussion. We’re constantly monitoring information, and are in discussion with the Olympic federation science and medical group, but we don’t want to step into the arena of making statements until it’s absolutely necessary, and in fairness we’re still in April.”

No way dependent

In announcing a core sporting package of €40 million, much of which is wrapped around a Tokyo Olympics which still may not even happen, McDermott also said that elite athlete funding is in no way dependent on the Games going ahead.

“We’re not thinking in those terms. The Olympics are very important to the athletes and the federation, but with high performance it’s also about building something for the long term here in Ireland, we’re progressing in the right direction, and we’re ambitious. The Olympics are a part of that, 91 days away, 120 days away from the Paralympics, but that kind of thinking is not in the mind frame, to be honest.”

On the matter of the carding scheme, and any perceived gap between development or underage funding to those funding directly, Treacy said all National Governing Bodies, including boxing, have a capacity to fund such athletes indirectly.

“We put money into NGB high performance, the junior and development athletes are catered for within that, and that’s the same with boxing and every other sport, who manage junior and development athlete as part of their overall high performance package.”

Asked if there was any progress of the reopening of indoor sports, Treacy added: “we know it’s going to be slower, and we’d hope some progress can be made shortly. It also depends on the level of contact indoors, but when it is safe to do so, and when Government will give the green light.”

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