Since the last communication of the St. Kitts and Nevis Olympic Committee (SKNOC) re the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the associated impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been rapid and significant changes worthy of attention.
Reference is made in this communication to a number of the more salient and direct changes that would impact the athletes, coaches/trainers and other athlete support staff, Member National Federations (NFs) and the leadership of the SKNOC relative to preparation and participation in the XXXII edition of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
a) it is now official, the IOC has agreed to the POSTPONEMENT of the Games originally scheduled to run from July 24 to August 9, 2020.
b) the Games will still be held in Tokyo, Japan, but now scheduled for after the year 2020 but “must be held by the Summer of 2021”.
c) the Olympic Flame which has already arrived in Tokyo will not be extinguished and the Games will still be known as the 2020 Olympic Games and so branded, even though they will now take place in 2021.
d) some 53 per cent of athletes from 206 countries across 5 continents have already qualified to participate in the 2020 Games which involve 33 sports.
i. there is an expressed viewpoint that these 53 per cent of athletes should not lose their “qualifying status”, that is, they should be automatically qualified. Clarity on this matter is expected from the IOC and/or the respective International Federations (IFs).
ii. we also await clarity and guidance on the adjustments and decisions (per sport/ discipline) that would be made to allow for future qualification opportunities and respective deadlines. You will recall that the uncertainties and challenges presented by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) severely disrupted qualification schedules and opportunities.
iii. athletes still seeking qualification would be taken into consideration when determining future qualification deadlines.
e) no individual athlete or team from St. Kitts and Nevis has yet qualified for the Tokyo Games (as of March 25th 2020).
f) a number of individuals is currently actively seeking qualification. The SKNOC provides regular support to these individuals in the form of financial scholarships.
g) These individual athletes currently on scholarship will continue to be provided with financial assistance for that purpose as per the availability and access to such funding from the SKNOC partners. This is in light of the extended period for preparation as a result of the postponement to 2021.
h) However, this financial support, now suspended, will not recommence until the all clear to resume preparation/training is received from the appropriate health authorities.
i) There is reason for optimism that additional funding specifically for the scholarship athletes would be forthcoming from IOC/Olympic Solidarity and Panamsports but no formal word has yet been had and there is no indication as how much.
j) From an SKNOC standpoint, however, continuity on the scholarship and any other funding programmes will not be automatic. Athletes will have to demonstrate evidence of progress and advance towards the required levels of performance to inspire confidence in the likelihood of meeting the qualification levels or obtaining other established standards for participation.
k) The Games Preparation Committee has the responsibility and authority to monitor and recommend the continuity/exclusion of any athlete/team in the scholarship programme and/or to recommend an athlete for inclusion. The Executive, in turn, reserves the right to act on that recommendation. The final decision would always be determined by the availability and/or access to funds and the quantum per athlete/team by predetermined criteria.
l) Athletes based overseas are required to stay put, and strongly encouraged to strictly follow the instructions and guidelines established by the relevant health and government authorities in their respective jurisdictions. The SKNOC is not approving payment for travel to St. Kitts and Nevis or anywhere else at this moment. When it becomes appropriate and feasible so to do, the athletes concerned would be contacted.
m) Similarly, athletes based in St. Kitts and Nevis will not receive approved funding for travel until national and other relevant health authorities give the green light so to do and the SKNOC endorses in writing.
n) All athletes are therefore requested to follow the safety and security protocols established by the government and health agencies in order to diminish and eliminate any contamination by the Coronavirus.
o) developments continue to evolve moment by moment in regard to the elusive and highly dangerous Coronavirus. On Monday 23rd March, the SKNOC was a participant in a video conference summoned by the IOC. The outcome of that video conference was summarily made public following that video conference.
p) On Tuesday 24th March there was video conference held by the Panamsports Executive in which President Bridgewater participated. A summary of this video conference was made available to athletes, Member Federations and the SKNOC Executive.
By the following day, the Panamsports Secretariat published its own media release outlining what took place for the consumption of its constituent membership and the international public.
q) In very quick succession, the IOC was back in the media, this time informing all concerned that the decision had been taken to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021. Quite a cascade of events over a 24 to 72-hour period.
r) The SKNOC is in full concert with the Panamsports to provide unequivocal support to the IOC’s decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
s) At this very moment, the SKNOC is receiving word of yet another video conference to be convened by the IOC on Friday 27th March, 2020 – further evidence of the critical focus the issue occupies in the consciousness of all concerned at this time.
t) The SKNOC remains committed to the safety and security of the athletes and the supporting team as the priority in all deliberations and decisions taken concerning the ongoing challenges posed by the Coronavirus in relation to the organization, preparation and participation in the XXXII edition of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
u) It is against this backdrop that the SKNOC will continue to monitor the unfolding developments, keeping watch with eagle eyes; heed the recommendations and advice of the relevant and pertinent government, and health experts and authorities and make smart decisions going forward.