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Olympian Smith expects Tokyo to be postponed

  • Stance wavering: Bermuda long jumper Tyrone Smith
  • Team effort: Tyrone Smith had dreamt of competing in Tokyo with his wife, Sandi Morris, the leading United States pole vaulter

A Bermudian Olympian said yesterday it was inevitable that the Olympic Games would be postponed after Australia and Canada said they would not participate in Tokyo this summer.

Tyrone Smith, a long jumper and three-times competitor at the Olympics, said he expect more countries to follow the lead of Australia and Canada.

Smith said: “If I was putting money on it, especially with Australia and Canada pulling out and other countries sure to follow, I’d say the Olympics will be postponed.

“Even if there was a possibility of the Games going ahead, the optics of that would look terrible now. I think we’re looking at 2021 or 2022.”

He was speaking as organisers yesterday faced global pressure to call off the games for the first time in their 124-year modern history because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bermuda Olympic Association announced yesterday that it was in favour of postponement of the Games, due to start on July 24, although it would support the decision of the International Olympic Committee.

It added that the “safety of athletes, coaches, support personnel and their families is of the utmost importance”.

With athletes all over the world struggling to access training facilities or compete in qualifying events, Smith said that unless the world “returns to normal” by May 1, competitors will run out of time to prepare.

Smith, who has still to qualify for Tokyo, added: “My stance has been wavering as more information comes out and things have started to rapidly change.”

“A month ago, people were asking me if I thought something may happen to the Olympics and I was like, ‘Absolutely not, they have spent too much money — it’s too much of a logistical challenge to move everything’.

“I maintained that stance until people started being kicked out of their training locations. That’s when I really started raising an eyebrow.

“I mean, you’ve got the women’s world indoor record-holder in the triple jump [Yulimar Rojas, of Venezuela] stuck in her apartment in Spain doing push-ups.”

The IOC and Japanese Government were united in their stance that the games would not be postponed, but appeared to back pedal yesterday and announced a month-long consultation over other scenarios, including postponement.

A change would be a blow to the host country, which has injected more than $12 billion of investment in the build-up to the games.

Smith said he did not support Australia and Canada’s power play after “backing the IOC into a corner” by quitting Tokyo, but he accepted that delaying the games by a year or two remained the only feasible option.

He added: “Ultimately, I think people need to stick together — that’s what the Olympics is about.

“Backing the IOC into a corner by saying you will not send your athletes just a day after they asked for more time is a little bit shortsighted. Leaving it a few weeks wouldn’t have hurt anyone.”

Smith, who reached the long jump final in London in 2012, said: “We should be presenting a united front to the world as Olympians who celebrate the Olympic spirit and are part of the Olympic movement.

“There are a lot of ramifications that go along with postponing the Olympics and it’s only fair to give the IOC an opportunity to talk to all of the stakeholders, talk to the athletes, talk to the National Olympic Committees.”

Smith, at 35, knows his international career will probably be over if the Olympics are postponed.

He had dreamt of competing in Tokyo along with his wife, Sandi Morris, the leading United States pole vaulter, in what Smith had hoped would be his final hurrah in the sport.

Smith, who trained at an unlocked high school park in Arkansas until last week, said: “My career could have actually been over when I didn’t even realise it, back when I was competing at the World Championships in Doha last summer.”

“They could have been my last jumps in a Bermuda kit, and that’s difficult to think about.

He added: “If they postpone it another year, I’ll do everything I can to hold on and qualify, but it gets more difficult the older you get.

“I’ll be graduating from business school at the University of Texas and it would be up to the charity of the company that hires me to hold my spot until after the Games.”