AOC backs IOC's commitment to staging Tokyo Olympics

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by Beth Newman

Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll says the health of athletes is paramount as they work towards taking a team to the Tokyo Olympics in a "corona-free environment".

Carroll  and Australia's chef de mission Ian Chesterman were part of a global hookup between the IOC and the participating nations about the future of the games on Wednesday night after IOC President Thomas Bach maintained on Wednesday that no "drastic decisions" needed to be made about the Olympics.

Tokyo's Olympics are set to kick off on July 24 and the IOC has been adamant it would not be rushed into a call on cancelling the games, despite sports all over the world effectively halting their competitions.

Australia's two Sevens teams were planning on travelling to Japan in the weeks leading up to the Games, training out of Odawara before moving to Tokyo for the competition starting on July 27.

Already, two Sevens World Series tournaments in Asia have been postponed and this week, the Australian government introduced level 4 travel advice, advising Australians not to travel internationally, something that has led to the grounding of almost all international flights through to the end of May at least.

The AOC is looking at extending pre-Games camps in Australia and Japan, should there be quarantine restrictions in place, and travelling via charter planes to the Games.

Olympic qualifying and test events have been cancelled around the world, with still close to half of the spots in the games yet to be filled.

Carroll said the decision on the Games was the IOC's not Australia's to make, and they were working from the best advice available.

"The IOC is not making their own advice, they’re not living in a bubble," he said.

"They’re basing their decisions advice from world health organisations, advice from Tokyo governor, advice from health organisations on Ja[pan.

"If that advice changes, I'm very certain the IOC, based on their two guiding principles, would change their decisions."

Carroll said there was no need to rush a decision on the Olympics.

"The decision of cancellation or postponement is their decision. What their plan A or B is, is their business," he said.

"What we want to make sure for the AOC's persons is that their decision making process, to get to either plan A, B or C was good. That's what we were working towards.

"It is four months (until the Games start).

AOC CEO Matt Carroll and chef de mission Ian Chesterman speak to media on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images"If you think back to where this virus was a month ago, things have changed.

"They don't need to make the decision today. They're taking a measured process, getting the best advice you can possibly get, the World Health Organisation would not be advising him otherwise.

"So, (f) things change, then the IOC's decision also change. They don't have to make that decision today."

Chesterman, who has been the main liaison with Australia's athletes, said that overwhelmingly athletes wanted to go to Tokyo in July.

"I think the athletes want to go to the games so we need to provide them with best possible opportunity that the circumstances provide," he said.

"No doubt that the Tokyo 2020 is going to be  different to what we saw in Rio or London or other games.

"Athletes still want to go."

Ian Chesterman says Australia's athletes overwhelmingly want to go to the games. Photo: Getty imagesWhat Carroll and Chesterman did say unequivocally was that there was almost no chance that the games would be postponed, with the event either going ahead as scheduled or cancelled entirely.

"Postponement is not a simple thing to do, there's a timeline on the athletes village, when apartments need handed over to developers," he said.

"There's a timeline on venues, other sporting evens that use the Tokyo venues, there's a timeline for athletes and other international competitions that will come in 2021."

Carroll also disputed the notion that the IOC's determination to stage the Games was financially motivated.

"The IOC’s finances have always been built on a games not proceeding," he said.

So when it comes to the impact on IOC they’re insulated against that.

"Their decision making is not around the financials, it's around the two principles that puts athletes at the centre.

"We’re sitting four months out from the games, as we get closer if that level playing field is not safeguarding the athletes' interests, it will affect the IOC's decision."