OPINION: Olympics decision good news for South Africa
CAPE TOWN –The delay in the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to the coronavirus was in some ways understandable.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach came under increasing criticism from athletes and sports bodies across the world for not acting sooner.
Some of the behaviour might have been because of plain stubbornness from the IOC, which has a reputation of not wanting to portray an image of panic, but there were also valid reasons.
The Olympics were scheduled to start on July 24 - in exactly four months when the postponement was announced on Tuesday - so there would probably have been some hope from the IOC’s side over the past few weeks that the speard of the coronavirus pandemic would show a downward curve.
That hasn’t happened, unfortunately, which is why the IOC and Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe made the decision this week to halt the Games until 2021.
It was a massive call to make, but ultimately the right one.
Athletes across the world have used the past four years to prepare for Tokyo 2020, while Japan has spent around $12 billion (R209.3bn) to prepare for the event.
Closer to home, South African athletics superstars Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya will benefit from the delay.
Van Niekerk is making his way back from injury and was slowly getting into racing mode again.
Semenya recently announced that she wanted to qualify in the 200m for the Olympics as she has been prohibited from running any distance between 400m and the mile following her battle with the World Athletics regarding her high testosterone levels.
It would’ve been touch and go about whether she would’ve qualified in time, let alone become a medal contender.
Now a possible extra year gives Semenya an opportunity to become a proper sprinter.
The IOC is hoping to sort out new dates for the Olympics within four weeks, with Bach stating “our mission is to organise Games and make dreams of athletes come true”.
But, for now, let’s all observe the 21-day lockdown in South Africa and hope that our heroes will be back competing in our sports arenas in due course.