Catalan athletes need ‘equal conditions’ to train for suspended Olympic Games

Sports secretary agrees with one-year postponement of Tokyo 2020 as there’s no guarantee it will be safe by autumn

Catalonia's secretary of sport, Gerard Figueras, appears in Parliament (by Miquel Codolar)
Catalonia's secretary of sport, Gerard Figueras, appears in Parliament (by Miquel Codolar) / Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields | Barcelona

March 24, 2020 07:22 PM

The Olympic Games, originally scheduled to be held in Tokyo this summer, will instead be postponed and played in the summer of 2021, something the Catalan government’s sports secretary is in favour of. In an interview with Catalan News, Gerard Figueras said “there’s no other option” than postponing the Olympic Games a year for a variety of reasons, including public health and competition fairness. 

Figueras pointed out that by postponing them to the autumn would not provide any guarantee that the coronavirus crisis will be any better at that point, and also that athletes are unable to train right now, which would give some an unfair advantage over the ones currently in lockdown. 

“The best and safest option would be to pick the same dates in 2021,” Figueras explained. “Nobody can assure that by autumn the pandemic will be better, so a year is time enough to hope that the health situation will have improved across the globe,” he added.

Of the roughly 300 athletes in the Spanish delegation for the Olympics, around half are Catalans

The sports secretary also highlighted the need for “equal conditions” for the athletes from across the world. Playing the Olympics one year later “will give the athletes time to have a complete training, and give time for all of the qualification processes to be done.” 

“It’s not a fair situation, our athletes need to prepare themselves in equal conditions to compete in Tokyo on the scheduled dates. So from our point of view the decision taken by the International Olympic Committee is the right one.”

Preparation interrupted

Regardless, the decision will have a huge affect on the competitors. In the Catalan government’s high performance programme, there are 530 athletes that are supposed to have chances to qualify for and compete in the Olympics. “The current situation means that all of those athletes, since 12 days ago, are not able to train. For them this is a huge inconvenience.” 

Since March 14, all of Spain has been in a near-total lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, and people are only allowed to leave their houses for reasons absolutely essential. For Olympic-hopefuls, the situation is no different, meaning “there is no option for training other than in their own homes.”

Despite the far from ideal circumstances, Figueras understands there are “very clear instructions both from the Spanish health ministry and also from the Spanish sports council,” regarding the state of alarm the country finds itself in right now.

Funding aid

Figueras confirmed the government has opened an investigation into the economic impact on Catalan sports, and are working on funding packages of up to €10 million to help sports centers, gyms, and individual sports people whose incomes will be hit by the suspension of competition. 

Any competition that can be completed at later dates than previously planned should still go ahead, in the eyes of the sports secretary, although he acknowledges this will not be possible for all events. 

Regarding professional leagues and teams, Gerard Figueras said “the situation has no precedent,” but underlines that whatever decisions are made will need to be “taken in consensus” as “the consequences will be deep.”