Olympics
A woman walks with a protective face mask following the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic past the Olympic rings in front of the Olympics Museum in Tokyo. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: As the clamour for postponement of Tokyo Olympics in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic is growing by the day, a cross section of the Indian sportspersons’ community joined the call for the same on Sunday.

Mahesh Bhupathi, multiple tennis doubles Grand Slam winner and an Olympian, was unequivocal that delaying the Games - scheduled to be held from July 24-August 9, is the only option in the current scenario. “Olympics is all about having the best of the best competing for the highest prize in sport and in today’s scenario where the world is locked down and the training facilities are all shut, that cannot be a reality,” the 45-year-old said the media.

“So in my opinion pushing it to next summer is the only solution, while it’s not ideal for all parties, it’s probably the only logical solution in the current scenario.”

Joydeep Karmakar, a former world No.4 ranked shooter in 50 metres rifle prone who finished an agonising fourth in London 2012, felt that the uncertainty over the Games itself is an unprecedented situation and will defeat the purpose of what the Olympics movement stands for. “In my opinion, it’s already late for the IOC to announce a final decision. Unlike any other sporting event, Olympics is an event for which the preparation and qualification process continues for a number of years. This has been badly hit already,” Karmakar said in a phone interview.

Now a celebrated coach to the likes of Mehuli Ghosh, Karmakar continued: ‘‘The whole idea of Olympism might be defeated for not providing a level and fair field for athletes to test their skills. If the Olympics eventually goes ahead, favourites may miss out and participation will be less.”

So in my opinion pushing it to next summer is the only solution, while it’s not ideal for all parties, it’s probably the only logical solution in the current scenario

- Mahesh Bhupathi

“As an athlete, I obviously want the Olympics to happen but it should not happen,” India’s veteran table tennis player Sharath Kamal was quoted as saying.

“The epicentre of the virus will keep changing, first it was China, now it is Italy and Iran too is badly affected in Asia. I don’t see the scenario being safe for the Olympics to start on time.

“Everyone is talking about social distancing but it is one thing which won’t be possible at the Olympics. Thousands of athletes would be staying in the same village.”

Leander Paes, the 46-year-old veteran of seven Olympics who is gunning for a berth in what could be his eighth appearance in the Games, wants to keep his fingers crossed though. ‘‘I should be in a position to comment a month later when the picture will be a little clearer,” said Paes, speaking to Gulf News from his Mumbai home - holed up on a day India were observing a ‘Janata Curfew’ to practice social isolation.

Sania Mirza, former doubles world No.1 in women’s tennis, said she would abide by the IOC’s decision on the fate of the Games.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) struck an optimistic note, hoping that the worst will blow over. “Coronavirus has already been controlled in China, where it was massive, and we are confident things will come under control in the next two months,” IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta said.

“We are expecting the IOC to organise the Olympics during its scheduled dates. We will go by what the IOC decides. If the IOC says the Olympics will go on, we will have to participate.”