BY MIKE ROWBOTTOM
The World Athletics Championships could be moved from next year to 2022 to accommodate the rearranged Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.
Coe said today that his sport’s flagship Championships, due to take place in Oregon from August 6 to 15, could be moved from 2021 to give space to the Tokyo Games, which have been postponed for up to a year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nobody saw this problem (with the virus)…so the flexibility here is very important,” Coe told Japanese media in a teleconference.
Should the biennial Championships be postponed for a year, he said it would still be possible to “have a 2022 and 2023 Championships back to back,” although he added that was a matter of speculation at this point.
Speaking in a later teleconference with African and European media, Coe accepted that a delay of a year could mean more Russian athletes taking part in the next Olympics and Paralympics as their federation seeks to restore faith in its operation following the long-standing doping scandal.
At the World Athletics Council meeting in Monaco earlier this month the world governing body decided to introduce a cap of 10 neutral Russian athletes competing in forthcoming major events, adding it was aimed at accelerating change in the Russian system.
But asked today, Coe responded: “I think that is something we would want to be discussing with our Task Force.
“But looking down the road, everybody is in a different landscape so that will have to be looked at.”
Asked if there might be an upside for the Oregon organisers to have an extra year to prepare – and if there would be a downside in staging the next World Championships a year ahead of the scheduled 2023 version in Budapest, Coe told insidethegames:
“Nothing has been decided yet, but no International Federation is likely to be comfortable holding its World Championships in the same year as an Olympics.
“If we were to hold the next World Championships in 2022, a year after the Games, you would have the next ones in 2023, and then be in the Olympic Games in 2024.
“You would have athletics centre stage for four consecutive years…I think we could live with that, and that athletes could live with that.
“But it is still a matter for consideration.”
Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach agreed to push back the Summer Olympic Games, with the IOC Board approving it on grounds of safeguarding the health and safety of athletes.
In a statement earlier this week, World Athletics said it was already working to “ensure that Oregon is able to host the World Athletics Championships on alternative dates, should that prove necessary.”
Coe, the chairman of the 2012 London Olympic Organising Committee, expressed his support for the decision to push back the Tokyo Olympics, saying, “It was not an easy decision,” adding everyone did what they could do at every level.
“No decisions will be made until we see the Tokyo dates,” Coe said from his home in London.
Asked his opinion on possibly holding the Tokyo Olympics outside the summer months, Coe said, “I don’t want to speculate on that. Because the meeting, the conference call that took place with the IOC yesterday, had all the International Federations on board and we all agreed those conversations will remain private.”
Some international sports federations have suggested holding the Games in spring as a means to avoid the sweltering Tokyo summer.
However Coe indicated the view World Athletics have on the spring/summer question when he responded to a suggestion by Spanish paper Marcathat never in history have there been good track and field performances in April and May.
Coe responded with a single sentence: “I wouldn’t disagree with you.”
On the idea of moving the marathon back to the capital from Sapporo should the Olympics be held at a cooler time, which Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike endorsed, Coe also answered that it is “very early to start speculating.”
Since concerns over uncertainty in the qualification status of athletes emerged following the announcement of the delay of the Olympics, Coe said in addressing the issue, “A large number of athletes are already qualified and if they are qualified, they remain qualified.”
For athletes who have not qualified for the Olympic Games, “a fair process” will be provided, he said, stressing the importance of transparency in the process at the same time.
He added: “As of today, all athletes who have met the entry standards for their event will remain qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.”