Former British Olympic champion cyclist Callum Skinner has accused the International Olympic Committee of “arrogance and stubbornness” in their stance on this summer’s Games.
The IOC is still planning to hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games between 24 July and 9 August and the Paralympics from 25 August to 6 September, despite the global coronavirus pandemic.
IOC president Thomas Bach said he held “constructive” talks with athlete representatives earlier this week, but Skinner, who is a leading voice for pressure group Global Athlete, says Olympic organisers must postpone the Games.
“Our call is to postpone, give everyone a breather and then see about when we can reschedule the Games,” Skinner, who won gold and silver medals for Team GB at Rio 2016, told City A.M.
‘Stakes are so much higher’
“I think there’s been a degree of arrogance and stubbornness,” he said.
“To go to the stubbornness, I think they don’t seem to realise how out of step their current messaging and tone is compared to what athletes are seeing from leaders on the TV, or on the news in general.
“I’d say that needs to change. They need to level with athletes and be honest about the challenge presented to the world.
“In terms of the arrogance and in holding a complete Games, I don’t really think that is something that is within their control. We had Zika virus in 2016 before the Rio Games and that pales in comparison to what we’re dealing with now.
“We still saw quite major names pulling out of that Games because of health and safety – and that’s why I think it’s a bit arrogant to say they’re going to have a full Games in July.
“I can see athletes’ teams pulling out to a greater extent than we saw in 2016 because the stakes are so much higher.”
Skinner is not alone in his view.
British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson has criticised the IOC for telling athletes to train as normal, while USA Track and Field and USA Swimming have called on the governing body to postpone the Olympics until a later date.
Skinner, 27, retired from cycling in March 2019 and has spent the last year trying to give a voice to current athletes through his positions on the British Olympic Association athlete committee and with Global Athlete.
Despite his criticism of the IOC, Skinner has an optimistic outlook and believes pushing the Olympics back until the summer of 2021 could turn the Games into a celebratory event after coronavirus dies down.
“I definitely have undying faith in the power of the Olympic movement and that’s why this postponement should really be seen as an opportunity by the IOC,” Skinner said.
“Do you want a Games where you could potentially see boycotts, and the coverage is all about Covid-19? Or one which is a full Games, where you have the opportunity to bring the whole world together?”