The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
THE biggest news coming out of next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is that the quadrennial jamboree will proceed with or without Covid-19, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president John Coates going as far as changing the games’ theme to the “Games that conquered Covid-19”.
“The Games were going to have their theme as the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” Coates was quoted as saying, referring to the 2011 catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
“Now these will be the Games that conquered Covid-19, the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
The message has been heard loud and clear, with Team Zimbabwe Chef De Mission for the event and Zimbabwe Olympic Committee vice president Thabani Gonye fully backing the IOC’s stance.
“We trust the IOC’s judgment in such matters and trust that sufficient protocols to ensure the safety of all visiting athletes, will be in place when the games do take place,” said Gonye.
“It is true that the pandemic has come with its challenges, affecting all facets of life and in particular sport.
“But we should be at a stage where we are able to fight back, or at the very least combat this virus, and ensure that our athletes are safe at all times.
“We stand guided by the IOC on such matters, and trust that their every move puts the athletes’ safety first and foremost”.
Sadly, there was little update Gonye could give on the components of the Zimbabwe team for the games, since most sports have been halted for the past six months.
Zimbabwe has one qualification sport secured, in rowing, with Peter Purcell-Gilpin’s silver medal at last year’s African Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tunisia, ensuring that the country will have a spot in the men’s singles at the Tokyo Games.
“As it stands only rowing has qualified, but I will be meeting with the associations, in the coming days, to get an update in light of the revised qualification schedules and dates for the numerous sports.
“It is only then we will know the qualification prospects and schedules,” said Gonye.
One sport likely to take centre stage is athletics, with National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president Tendai Tagara confident they will be part of Team Zimbabwe.
“We remain hopeful that some of our athletes will qualify for the Olympics, chief amongst them the marathon runners. We have refused to completely rule out the 2020 season, hence the decision to only cancel the inter-provincials.
“We have also told our athletes to remain vigilant and prepare as best they can under the current conditions, so as to be ready when the time comes.
“December and January will be key months during which we hope to be in a position to send our athletes for qualifiers.
“We hope to secure a few spots, with long distance runners among our hopefuls,” Tagara said.
He believes that the stance taken by the IOC vice president is not only a bold declaration, but a message of hope.
“My understanding is that it is a message of hope rather than anything else. It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of life, and there is now a need to adapt to the new normal.
“Hopefully, by the time the games come, we should be in a position where we have adapted to the new situation and able to carry on with life safely in spite of the virus.
“We should be able to manage the virus,” Tagara said.