March 22, 2020 / 10:35 PM / 15 days ago

Tokyo Games not feasible in July says World Athletics chief Coe

(Reuters) - The Tokyo Olympics are not feasible at their current July starting date because of the coronavirus pandemic and must be delayed, World Athletics president said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Victory Ceremony - Men's Marathon Victory Ceremony - Maracana Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. IAAF President Sebastian Coe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (L) wait to present medals. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

“An Olympic Games in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable, Sebastian Coe said in a letter to his International Olympic Committee (IOC) counterpart Thomas Bach requesting the Games be moved from July.

Continental athletics officials unanimously agree on a delay, Coe added in the letter.

It was released hours after the IOC announced it could take up to four weeks to make a decision on whether to postpone the Games, which are currently scheduled to start on July 24.

“Every one of my Area Presidents believes that we can no longer expect a fair and level playing field in our sport given the number of athletes who are struggling to train,” Coe said.

“If we lose the level playing field, we lose the integrity of the competition. Nobody wants this.”

World Athletics said in a separate statement: “We stand ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date.”

By making a decision on delaying the Games, the IOC can stop the real anguish that athletes are facing in these uncertain times and perhaps reduce the possibility of injuries as they push themselves, Coe said.

“No-one wants to see the Olympic Games postponed,” the former world class athlete said, “{but] we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety.

“I believe the time has come, and we owe it to our athletes to give them respite where we can.”

Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris

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