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Sir Matthew Pinsent hits out at IOC insistence that Tokyo Olympics will go ahead

IOC chairman Thomas Bach remains committed to opening the Games on July 24 despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Four-time Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent believes it is "folly" for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to insist the Tokyo Games will go ahead.

IOC chairman Thomas Bach said on Tuesday that starting on schedule on July 24 remains the organisation's goal, despite much of the sporting calendar being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think it's the IOC saying we must try and get through if we can, which I have a degree of sympathy with, it just runs counter to what every health authority and government is saying around the world," Pinsent told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Olympic Games
The Tokyo Olympics are due to start on July 24 (Mike Egerton/PA)

"We've seen lockdowns across Europe and across Asia at different timescales but this is coming and the idea that the Olympics are going to carry on regardless I think is folly.

"On a global front we have other priorities and I think the Olympics should at the very least be saying we should postpone or indeed just cancel at this stage and we'll talk about postponement later on.

"I just don't think there's much of a choice at this stage. For much of the European countries as well Asian countries, organised sport in any meaningful way has ceased and that's from government advice.

"I don't see there's any way forward for an Olympic athlete to train effectively even as an individual but particularly in a team environment.

Thomas Bach
IOC president Thomas Bach believes the Olympic Games will go ahead (Martin Rickett/PA)

"I just think it's unfair actually, I think it's unfair almost for the Olympics to say we're going to carry on, the Olympics are still happening, we are committed to the Olympics in July, because there are two big forces in an Olympic athlete's life, which is the Olympics and everything else and those two things are pulling in different directions at this moment and it's very very difficult for them individually when they've got that tension in their own heads."

Asked why he felt the IOC was insisting the Games would go ahead, Pinsent added: "I think they feel a responsibility to Tokyo.

"We know having hosted in 2012 that seven-year build up is a crescendo of energy and concentration and effort on behalf of the city and on behalf of the nation and the government, everybody takes a pride in it.

"I know that Tokyo have done exactly the same and actually the financial stakes are much higher for the host city than they are for the IOC."

Sir Matthew Pinsent
Sir Matthew Pinsent directs Great Britain's Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell to row to the Berkshire side during his Diamond Challenge Sculls race against New Zealand's Mahe Drysdale during the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames, Oxford (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Pinsent believes the IOC should follow the lead of other sporting organisations which have suspended matches or tournaments in order to give themselves time to assess the long-term situation.

"If you had a decision tree, the first one is are the Olympics going to carry on in Tokyo in July as planned and to me that very soon is going to be a no, a firm no," the 49-year-old added.

"The decision whether to reinstate it in Tokyo, whether it's later in the year or next year or delay by two or four years, is a decision that does not have to happen now. That can take time.

"For an Olympic athlete, ideally you'd want 12 months' notice and so you could say now, 'we're really sorry, the Olympics is not going to happen as planned in July, we are going to assess the situation and announce what's going to happen' which is where most other sports have got to with this."

Lord Coe thinks the Games could feasibly take place in September and October
Lord Coe thinks the Games could feasibly take place in September and October (Mike Egerton/PA)

World Athletics president Lord Coe admits that the Games could logistically be held in September and October, but believes a decision does not need to be taken now.

"That is possible, anything is possible at the moment," Coe, who was chairman of the London 2012 Games organiser Locog, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But I think the position that sport has certainly taken, and it was certainly the temperature of the room in the conversation I had the other day with the IOC and our other federations, is that nobody is saying we will be going to the Games come what may.

"And it may be that over the course of changing events, and they're changing by the hour, that that is something that we have to confront. But it isn't a decision that has to be made at this moment."

Asked if the Olympics could be delayed to 2021, Coe added: "That seems on the surface of it an easy proposition, but member federations actually avoid Olympic years often to have their world championships.

"Athletics has its world championships at exactly those dates that you're talking about in 2021 in the United States (August 6-15) so it's not quite as easy as just saying we'll move one down.

"The European football championships have moved to next year, that too would clash. The sporting calendar is a very complicated matrix, it's not that simple to just simply say we'll ease one event from one year to the next.

"We have done that with our own world indoor championships but that doesn't clash with anything else at the same time."

As for the prospect of combining the Olympics and the World Championships next year, Coe said: "It would be ridiculous of me to say anything is ruled out at the moment.

"We are living in an environment where everything is changing very quickly, the whole world wants clarity, that's just simply not possible at the moment and we're no different from any other sector."

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States17171347
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151137
Great BritainGreat Britain891128
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events

· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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