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Minister of Sports Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said Friday that she does not support a Cayman Islands Olympic team travelling to Tokyo, Japan, amid the current coronavirus crisis.
“We are watching what’s going to happen with the Olympics in July,” said O’Connor-Connolly. “They haven’t yet decided [to cancel] as far as I’m aware. I would hope that they use all the information that they have and cancel. But if not, I will be strongly recommending that our team does not participate.”
Since the first person tested positive for coronavirus in early January, as of Sunday, Japan had reported 1,763 people had contracted the virus, including 712 people who had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The country has reported 42 deaths.
Some of the world’s most prestigious sporting leagues and organisations have already cancelled or postponed games, including the UEFA Championship league, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Ultimate Fighting Championships. However, the Olympic Games are still set to take place as scheduled.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a recent press conference shut down concerns about the country’s ability to host the games.
“We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned,” said Abe.
Despite the Japanese government and the Tokyo Olympic committee saying the games will go on, several national Olympic committees and other governing sports bodies in Europe and the Americas are calling for the Tokyo games to be postponed.
“The organising committee is not at the point where we need a decision on whether to cancel or postpone the Games,” said the vice-president of the Tokyo Games organising committee, Toshiaki Endo.
In Cayman, O’Connor-Connolly said if the games do proceed, then Japan must show that it is safe for athletes to compete.
“I think it’s going to be extremely high risk,” she said.
She added that there are other potential meets that local athletes can prepare for, should the Tokyo games get postponed.
“[The] World Games and other games … will be coming up. I will ask them to do individual training – in the age of technology, that can be done through their coaches, through phones, and through guidance – but to refrain from communal participation as much as possible.”
Canada and Australia, have both pulled out of the Olympics games.
In addition, Caymanian track and field sprinter Kemar Hyman and swimmer Brett Fraser have both qualified for what could be their third Olympics.
Other athletes, like Jamal Walton, Rasheem Brown and Lacee Barnes, said during the pre-season that they were training hard to represent Cayman this year in Tokyo. However, those aspirations may be put on pause as the world grapples with the epidemic.
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