Mutoya defends pressure on IOC to delay Olympics

By Michael Uugwanga

THE 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games had to be called off this year due to apparent pressure from the Japanese government on Japan’s National Olympic Committee to have the Games postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The International Olympic Committee charter rules on National Olympic Committee (NOC) autonomy clearly stipulate that “The NOCs must preserve their autonomy and resist all pressures of any kind, in particular from governments.”

Efforts by the Japanese government to pressurise the IOC into postponing the Olympics to next year due to the global pandemic showed undue influence of the government in the postponement, critics say.

The 2020 Tokyo Games in Japan were due to take place from 24 July to 9 August. The Paralympics Games have also been postponed to next year. While the Olympic Games have previously been cancelled during wartime, this is the first postponement of the Games.

Twice have the Olympic Games been called off: first the Moscow Games in 1980 after top nations, such as United States and China, boycotted the games after then Soviet Union today Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979; and also the 1984 Los Angeles Games after 14 eastern countries led by then Soviet Union (now Russia), citing security concerns and “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria” being whipped up in the United States at the time.

Speaking to Confidente Sport, Stanley Mutoya, the African Union Sport Council Region Five (5) chief executive officer said he did not see anything wrong with the Japanese government’s attempts to influence the IOC to have the Games postponed.

“I do not regard this as a challenge. Rather it is productive consultation that leads to mutually beneficial decisions that prioritise the sanctity of human life. Let’s face it, Covid-19 is real and lives have been lost. If you consider projections, for instance in America where up to 3,000 people are projected to die per day by June 2020, these are shocking and scary statistics.

“No one is willing to be culpable for causing such unbelievable loss of lives, not even the Olympic Games would be worth taking such risks [for]. So, when world leaders engage to find solutions to global issues such as this pandemic, there is expectation that a common solutions will be reached. That solution is to be viewed in context, not as a contest where one emerge as a winner or loser, but as a consultative process that leads to responsible, mutual beneficial solutions in the best interest of the public and athletes,” said Mutoya.

Asked if the IOC or national Olympic bodies can function without government support, Mutoya said IOC members, such as National Olympic Committees and their respective governments generally need one another. He sees the relationship as part of a symbiotic ecosystem.

“In an ecosystem, there is high dependency between and among role-players. In the context of sport, no entity can regard itself superior to the other existentially, just like the hand cannot argue that it can operate without the leg. No sport governing body can function without support from government, and conversely, no government can be responsible for [sport-related decisions] without the sport governing bodies. It must be understood that sports governing bodies do not have jurisdiction over the citizens of nations. On the other hand, governments do not have jurisdiction over sport and its governance architecture. Co-existence therefore becomes key,” Mutoya said.

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