Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi has recently spoken out strongly about going ahead with the Tokyo Olympics.
A surge in the number of COVID-19 cases around the world has renewed doubts about the Games actually happening in July. With Tokyo in emergency, the support for the Olympics in Japan is plunging. The Games were previously postponed in 2020 owing to the pandemic.
Katerina Stefanidi told Japan’s Kyodo news agency that it would be better to hold the Tokyo Olympics without fans than not at all. “I think if we have to have the Olympics without spectators, I would prefer that than not having the Games at all,” the World Athletics Athletes’ Commission member was quoted as saying.
“For me the worst-case scenario would be to completely cancel”
Interestingly, last year Katerina Stefanidi had led the calls to postpone the Tokyo Olympics because of the pandemic. She had voiced concerns over athletes’ safety before IOC took the decision to postpone the Games.
“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” she had tweeted at the time. The 30-year old had said that out of all the World Athletics athletes polled at the time around 80% supported either cancelling or postponing the Games. But she believes that now 80% would be in favour of the Games if asked again. “I think that it’s a very different situation than what we had last year, where we didn’t really know anything about the virus,” the Greek athlete said.
On Friday, the Japanese government denied reports in The Times that said the officials see cancelling the Olympics as inevitable. The American, Canadian and Australian national Olympic committees also stressed they were still preparing their athletes for Tokyo.
Stefanidi also said that she would prefer the Games be held without spectators than be cancelled. The organizers have floated that as a possibility. “If we can have the Olympics with some spectators, that will be better of course… for me the worst-case scenario would be to completely cancel,” she said.