President says global governing body will “stand ready” to help athletes who face challenges due to coronavirus

World Athletics is still planning to be in Tokyo for the Olympic Games this summer, the governing body’s president Seb Coe has said, despite there being continued uncertainty around the athletics calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In January it was announced that the World Indoor Championships, which had been due to take place in Nanjing in China from March 13-15, would be postponed to 2021, while the World Half Marathon Championships, scheduled for March 29 in Gdynia, Poland, has been moved to October.

Many other events, such as the United Airlines NYC Half, have been cancelled, while the latest races to be postponed include the NN Marathon Rotterdam, Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon and OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO.

The NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships, which had been set to take place on Friday and Saturday (March 13-14) in Albuquerque, has also been cancelled.

Speaking on Thursday at a press conference in Monaco, where the World Athletics Council is meeting, Coe said: “Our sport is actually in good shape. Yes we have had to deal with some postponements, and those are never easy to deal with, but we have navigated our way through that.

“When it comes to athlete qualification, of course I do remind all of you that we have many, many more opportunities than virtually any other sport for our athletes to be qualified for events and particularly the Olympic Games this year. Many of our athletes are already qualified because that process has been ongoing now for 10 months.

“We have both flexibility in that system, we have more opportunities to compete, and those opportunities have been magnified this year of course because of the creation of the Continental Tour.

“The Continental Tour was really a product that is aimed at breathing life into what in large parts of the world had been challenging times for one-day meetings.

“It is serving a purpose and particularly at the moment it will be coming to the rescue of many of our competitors, adding to those opportunities.”

READ MORE: Continental Tour schedule announced for 2020

He added: “Having said that, where we have any challenges that we will be closely monitoring with our members federations, where there are athletes that have got these particular challenges, we of course will stand ready to help them.”

Asked about the Olympic Games specifically, Coe replied: “As far as Tokyo is concerned, this is a sport that is planning to be in Tokyo.

“That is exactly what our internal teams are working with and that is what we work on a daily basis with the Tokyo organising committee. That is what we are planning to do.”

On whether any contingency plan has been discussed, he added: “We are planning to be in Tokyo. There are no contingencies.”

Coe’s comments came on the same day that the Olympic flame was lit in Olympia, Greece, at a ceremony without spectators.

Meanwhile, Athletics Kenya has announced that athlete travel to international events has been suspended “in a bid to safeguard the athletes and consequently the country from the virus” for at least the next month.

Should the suspension be extended, it could have an impact on the participation of athletes such as world record-holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei at the Virgin Money London Marathon on April 26, if that event goes ahead as planned.

» This post was updated on March 12 following the cancellation of the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships

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