NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – Kenyan athletes collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday evening after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) finally announced a decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following the spread of the coronavirus.
The last few weeks have had uncertainties on the future of the games because of the COVID-19 which has ground almost the entire world into lockdown as governments look to contain its spread.
“There was a lot of uncertainty and we were all wondering whether the games will be held or not. Most of us have not been training because of the lockdown and it would have been unwise to have the Olympics when most people are not at their peak,” Julius Yego, the Rio 2016 javelin silver medalist told Capital Sport.
He added; “At least the pressure is off us and I think this is a very important decision and it is good for everyone. Health comes above everything else. Hopefully this thing ends and we get back to training. We just want to urge everyone to follow government directives, stay at home, maintain hygiene and let’s defeat the virus.”
Reigning Marathon Gold Medalist and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge also tweeted in support of the decision to move the games, with his first event of the year, the London Marathon initially scheduled for next month also pushed to September.
“All in all a very wise decision to postpone the Olympics until 2021. I look forward to come back to Japan to defend my Olympic title next year and look forward to witness a wonderful event. I wish everybody good health in these challenging times,” Kipchoge stated.
Meanwhile, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) and Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed have welcomes the decision to push forward the games as the world grapples with the new pandemic.
“With this bold decision, the IOC has provided our athletes with an opportunity to re-strategies and plan their training and conditioning with winning medals at the Olympics a top priority. We call on all our athletes to continue training in their private confines, until such a time that it is safe again to train in groups,” said NOCK Secretary General Francis Mutuku.
Kenya’s Chief de Mission at the Tokyo Games Waithaka Kioni was also a relieved man with the news that the Games would be postponed.
“It was an inevitable decision because we have seen how much damage coronavirus has caused in the world. The Olympic Games is all about displaying excellence and with athletes not training, there was no way they would display that excellence if they are not training well,” Kioni said, speaking to Capital Sport.
“Their (athletes) minds can now relax and we hope this thing ends soon so that we can go back to training,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Kioni who is also the president of the Kenya Volleyball Federation says he has written to the Confederation of African Volleyball (CAVB) regarding the botched beach volleyball qualifiers for both men and women.
Kenya pulled its teams out of the qualifiers with the women’s which was set to be held in Cape Verde seeing the hosts and Nigeria declared champions after Kenya and two other nations pulled out.
“Kenya as well as several other Federations have written to CAVB on that matter and we have requested the nullification of the qualifiers so that we have fresh ones and a level playing field for everyone else,” Kioni affirmed.
Among the teams that had already qualified for the Olympics include the men and women’s rugby sevens teams, the women’s volleyball team and two boxers; Christine Ongare and Nick Okoth.
Athletes were supposed to have their trails in June.
Kenya Sevens skipper Andrew Amonde has also welcomed the decision to postpone the games.
“Postponement was the best solution at the end of the day and it is better for everyone. We were not training as a team and we would have had very little time to prepare in the event the games would have been upheld and the virus contained in the next few weeks,” Amonde stated.