Local sports officials were elated over the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Olympic organizers of postponing the Summer Games due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Olympic chief of mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta lauded the agreement forged between IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in which the Summer Games would be moved to 2021 to spare the athletes from the danger of the deadly pulmonary disease.
Araneta said they saw the decision coming after a senior IOC member in Dick Pound revealed that they are looking at canceling the Games to a latter date after the virus halted some of the biggest Olympic qualifying tournaments, including that in basketball, boxing, football, gymnastics, athletics and swimming.
So far, only 43 percent of the Olympic allocations had been filled up and there’s no way for the IOC to push through with the Olympics with its finest athletes remains hunting for Olympic tickets.
In the Philippines, only EJ Obiena of athletics, Carlos Yulo of gymnastics and Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno of boxing have punched slots in the Summer Games with three-time Olympian Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, Kristina Knott, Eric Cray and Willie Morrison of athletics, Pauline Lopez of taekwondo, Kiyomi Watanabe of judo and Nesthy Petecio of boxing still bidding for their respective slots.
Araneta said the IOC decision was a step in the right direction.
“We are already expecting such decision from them. It’s good that they postponed the Olympics. At least all athletes training around the world would not be in jeopardy,” said Araneta, who is also the president of the Philippine Football Federation.
“Even when they were training, they were actually thinking of something else — how to stay healthy and how to avoid the virus. They cannot concentrate because of what’s happening around them.”
Araneta added that the postponement will also give athletes enough time to train, prompting them to deliver their best by the time the Summer Games roll next year.
“We don’t want to see an Olympics where the athletes are not well-prepared. We want an Olympics where excellence can be seen from the athletes — so they can show what they are made of,” he added.
On the same note, Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez also lauded the IOC and Olympic organizers’ decision.
“I have always expressed that I favor the postponement given the way the crisis seems to be taking,” said Ramirez, who served as chief of mission in the country’s victorious stint in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
“As I have mentioned before, safety and health of everyone is a top priority.”
Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino was also glad by the decision, saying that postponement is way better than complete cancellation.
After all, the country has a handsome chance of bagging its first Olympic gold medal with Diaz, Yulo and Watanabe tipped to come up with strong performances.
“Postponement is better than cancellation,” said Tolentino in a statement.
“At least we have a good chance of winning medals for all who qualified. They can train more and prepare better with this extension.”
Tolentino said they would reach out to the Southeast Asian Games Federation Council to make sure that the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi would be held in the latter part of the year.