Botswana uncertain over Tokyo as coronavirus spreads

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone - Botswana is still to decide whether to participate in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 as corona hit China and its neighbouring Japan are still battling to contain the scourge.

The 2020 Summer Olympics will begin on Friday 24 July and ends on Sunday 9 August this year.

The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, this week told reporters in Gaborone that the Botswana government was still monitoring the Covid-19 (coronavirus) situation ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Rakgare said Botswana will be guided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as it was also monitoring the situation.

As part of its effort to familiarise itself with the upcoming international event, the Botswana National Olympic Committee spent a few days in the Olympic capital, Lausanne, Switzerland, recently.

The main objective of the meeting was meeting with the IOC president Thomas Bach at the new IOC headquarters. The delegation comprised Rakgare, permanent secretary Kago Ramokate, BNOC president Botsang Tshenyego, and secretary general, Tuelo Daniel Serufho.

 

“On Wednesday we met IOC president, Thomas Bach, and in our meeting, he did not indicate to us whether they will postpone the Olympics or not, neither did he indicate whether they would move them to another country,” said Rakgare.

He added that Botswana believes that the Olympics should go on as planned.

“However, should there be reports that the virus is getting out of hand, Botswana will have to make a decision concerning its participation,” he said.

During the meeting with the IOC president the delegation discussed preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as well as the first Youth Olympic Games to be held in Africa in Senegal in 2022.

They also discussed Olympic values and the power of sport to transform lives in Botswana. Before arriving at Olympic House the delegation spent time with FINA and FIVB before meeting with IOC deputy director general, Pere Miro, and Olympic solidarity and NOC relations director, James McLeod.

Media reports indicate that speculation is mounting about one of the year’s biggest events due to take place directly in the orbit of the outbreak — the 2020 Olympic Games which are to be held in Tokyo beginning July 24.

Japan has the second highest rate of Covid-19 infections after China, with 695 people testing positive for the virus, most of them on a cruise ship docked at the city of Yokohama. Yet the Olympics torch relay is due to begin next month and traverse all of Japan’s 47 prefectures over 121 days, coinciding with its popular cherry blossom bloom.

According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Tokyo 2020 organising committee chief executive, Toshiro Muto, said he was “extremely worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games”.

In a statement, the IOC executive board expressed its full commitment to the success of the Olympic games in Tokyo.

The executive board said it heard a report on all the measures taken so far to address the coronavirus situation, which was followed by a comprehensive discussion.

“A joint task force had already been created in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IOC EB appreciates and supports the measures being taken, which constitute an important part of Tokyo’s plans to host safe and secure games,” the statement said.

The IOC said it would continue to follow the advice of WHO, as the leading United Nations agency on this topic.

“The IOC Executive Board encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The IOC will keep supporting the athletes by providing the latest information and developments,” the statement said. 

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