March 21, 2020 / 11:06 AM / 11 days ago

Players' body urges IOC to review Games plans during coronavirus crisis

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks past the Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo, Japan March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

(Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should review plans to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics during the coronavirus pandemic and ensure dialogue with athletes, the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) and the World Players Association (WPA) said on Saturday.

The flu-like virus, which originated in China last year, has infected over 274,000 people globally and caused more than 11,000 deaths. It has also brought the sporting world to a standstill.

The IOC and Tokyo organisers have maintained that the July 24-Aug. 9 Games should go ahead as scheduled but WPA executive director Brendan Schwab said the IOC must consult more athletes before making decisions.

“With the world in a pandemic, holding mega-sporting events including the Olympic Games demands a deep review and broader consultations than are occurring now, including with athletes and their representatives,” Schwab said in a statement.

“The IOC needs to elevate its dialogue with the full range of those most affected beyond sponsors and governments to an open multi-stakeholder process that brings to the table as equals player associations as the representatives of athletes and others most at risk.”

Thousands of Olympic hopefuls have been left in limbo with many qualifying events around the world postponed or cancelled.

Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch which is part of the SRA coalition of global non-governmental organisations, said sports bodies had to be more transparent at this time.

“The virus is impacting the health, human rights, employment and careers of athletes but also the well-being of millions whose livelihoods are dependent on the sports industry and its supply chain,” Worden said.

“Sports bodies have a responsibility to lower risks to athletes, insist on the free flow of information, and conduct themselves in an open and transparent way.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond

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