Author: Sanan SHAFIZADE
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the international sports movement is also in lockdown. Most international competitions are postponed or canceled. The European Football Championship was postponed to 2021, while Formula 1, European Judo Championship, and the Champions League are on halt for an indefinite time.
Finally, on March 24, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the organizers of the Tokyo Summer Olympics announced the postponement of the games to 2021.
The 32nd Olympic Games were to open on July 24, 2020. However, with the spread of the COVID-19, the Olympic Committees of Canada, Norway, Slovenia, the USA, Brazil, Croatia, France and Spain called on the IOC to reschedule the Olympics. The final decision was made after the host country announced the need to postpone the Games.
We asked the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan, Chingiz HUSEYNZADE, to comment on the situation in world and Azerbaijani sports.
"The situation with the coronavirus pandemic is well known. Did you expect that the Olympics 2020 and the Paralympic Games be postponed?"
"First of all, I urge our people to be steadfast in these difficult days for the whole world. I believe that the situation will improve in the coming months. As for your question, I want to talk about the videoconference organized by the International Olympic Committee. Azerbaijan, like all countries, also participated in these discussions. No transfer was discussed at the conference. It was stated that in Japan the pandemic situation is under control. Later, the appeal of the Japanese government to postpone the Olympics radically changed the situation. Now it is precisely known that the Olympics will take place in 2021. It remains only to specify the month the competitions will be held in."
"How did this decision affect the plans of the National Olympic Committee?"
"Obviously, the health of athletes is most important, although IOC made a decision at the time when our athletes were determined to take part in the Games. But this will not discourage them or prevent them from continuing intensive training. Now we need to look forward. Azerbaijan, as well as all countries of the world are fighting against the spread of the coronavirus, and I believe that humanity will win this confrontation.
“The National Olympic Committee supports the measures taken under the leadership of the President of Azerbaijan to prevent the spread of coronavirus and plans to continue its work in the framework of these measures.
“Considering the health of our athletes as a priority, we will continue to work to improve the level of training, promoting a healthy lifestyle, the importance of physical education and sports, the Olympic movement, and an increase in the number of Olympic licenses. I think that the struggle of mankind with the coronavirus pandemic will give its results in the coming weeks, and very soon life will again flow back to normal. We must take advantage of the time available, prepare even better, and increase the number of licenses.”
"Today the athletes who have won licenses do not leave home, do not train. How do you intend to get out of this situation?"
"In April, we will have a joint meeting at the Ministry of Youth and Sports. We intend to provide athletes with several arenas in the regions. We will turn them into a separate space so that athletes and coaches conduct training camps there. So did China. Athletes who won licenses were placed in another city, where they train according to special programs.
“In such conditions, judokas and wrestlers can train. And in athletics or swimming, the situation is somewhat different. Nazim Babayev, for example, is now at home, not training. We cannot provide him with a training space. Athletics training is held in different conditions. Our swimmers do not train either. That’s why they intend to ask for the opening of the Water Sports Palace only for athletes. Of course, we don’t yet discuss these issues. Now we have to wait until the end of the lockdown.”
"We are interested to know your personal position. Euro 2020 has been postponed; Formula 1 has been postponed too. Will the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics hit the credibility of this competition?"
"The Olympics is the largest competition on the planet. In the current situation, the postponement of the Games is an example of humanism, solidarity of the countries of the world. Usually they are not postponed, but canceled. In the history of the Olympic movement, the Games were canceled three times - in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to wars. If the organizers did not have time to prepare for the deadline, the Games could be canceled. But Tokyo promises to hold competitions at the highest level.
“The Olympic movement has a special authority, influence throughout the world. When organizing Olympiads, the IOC pays attention to every moment. Athletes have been preparing for years. They are people too. They must not be allowed to lose hope. The Olympics gives countries strength, adds credibility. The cancellation of the largest competition of the planet could be a big blow both materially and morally.”
“What would you like to wish to Azerbaijan's sports community?”
“I urge all our qualified athletes, to the extent possible, to continue training at home. One can’t stop the workouts. I believe that soon our country, the whole world will defeat the virus.”