Czech Olympics Chief: When Tokyo Games do happen they will say world is back in business

Photo: ČTK/AP/Jae C. Hong

The 32nd Olympic Games, which had been set for Tokyo this July and August, have been put back by at least a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. What does the world’s biggest sporting postponement to date mean for the Czech Republic’s athletes? And how hard has it hit the Czech Olympic Committee’s budget? I discussed those questions and more with COC president Jiří Kejval.

Jiří Kejval, photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt
“Honestly, everybody respects this decision. We expected this decision sooner or later.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation, but we do understand the reasons and we do accept the situation, for sure.”

In practical terms how much is this a setback for the Czech Olympic Committee? I guess you would have had hotels booked in Tokyo and things like that?

“I would divide this up into two parts.

“The first part is all the arrangements that we made with the Organising Committee.

“I do expect that a very cooperative approach to solving the problem.

“And we hope that tickets and accommodation and all that kind of stuff will just be moved.

“We also hope there will be no additional financial requirements.

“The other part is arrangements with other bodies – and there are significant losses of course.

“I’m talking about private accommodation and mainly we had some kind of down payments on travelling, especially for camps before the Olympics and that kind of stuff.

“And that will be pretty costly.”

Generally speaking what have been the reactions of Czech athletes to the news of the postponement of the Olympics?

“Generally everybody is happy, because they know exactly what the situation is.

“Czech athletes are not in a good situation because, as you know, for something like 14 days ago, almost three weeks now, all the venues were closed.

“That means most athletes can’t have relevant preparation for the Olympics.

“There are sports like swimming – there is no single swimming pool open in the Czech Republic, which is terrible.

“From this point of view, the vast majority of athletes are happy to know where we are and they’re not nervous and they’re not struggling.

“On the other hand, athletes did preparations for years for the Olympics and everybody was targeting the Olympics competition.

Photo: ČTK/AP/Jae C. Hong
“Also there are plenty of athletes who wanted to finish their career at the Olympics so it’s a big decision for them – if they will continue or if they will stop now, before the Olympics.

“So there are mixed feelings but for everybody it’s good that we do understand that this year is not happening and it’s been postponed.”

Obviously we’re talking about quite a long way into the future, but what will it mean to the world when the Tokyo Olympics do finally happen? The Olympics of course are the biggest sporting event in the world.

“You know, I think the Olympics are not just the biggest sporting event but they are, as we say, a celebration of humanity.

“The Olympics are much more than sport.

“It’s not like the World Cup, which is about football – the Olympics are about humanity.

“What we believe is that the Olympics will be a celebration of humanity, with very special content of the fight against the coronavirus.

“We hope for everybody that the Olympics will be like a new beginning.

“Because I’m afraid that after this crisis the world will never be world as it used to be.

“All of us hope that there will be a new beginning and the Olympics will be like a trigger for that – or just an announcement that the world is going to be back in business.”