Reaction to Olympics postponement, and why the decision took so long

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Olympic Games are officially postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving athletes considering their next steps. But, many say they understand the importance of canceling an event that brings thousands of people from all over the world together.

“Athletes — we have to be selfish most of the time,” said pole vaulter Sandi Morris. “That’s how we’re successful. We have to be selfish, but that in this moment we have to step back and realize that this is about our society. This is about our friends, our family and about all people that we don’t know personally. We have to think about humans in general.”

Reassessing the plan

Cat Osterman, a softball pitcher, wanted this year’s Games to be her Olympic comeback. After her team’s 2008 loss to Japan, she thought her career was over because softball was removed from the games. It was supposed to return this year — but now she’s having to refocus her training.

“Especially for me personally, being a little bit older, I am going to have to really figure out how to do this for another year with my body and if that’s the case then I’ll do it,” Osterman said, later sharing “there’s no turning back.”

Donavan Brazier, an 800 meter runner, said like many athletes they hadn’t had a lot of information from Olympics organizers, but believed they would make the right decision.

“I’d like to think that 4 months from now this will go on the path, and what we’ll just be looking at is, like, a little, you know, bump in the road and just kind of a look past it hopefully,” Brazier said.

Long jumper Tyrone Smith said Monday what he and other athletes were hoping for is direction. He and others have had a hard time to find places to train.

“If it’s going to be postponed, we can all adjust our training schedules to then peak at that time whenever that’s going to be,” Smith said. “I don’t want to see it postponed but I also don’t want to see people getting sick.”

Smith likened the work of those who put on the Olympics to athletes, who are “all pretty stubborn” and who believe “we’re going to make this happen because we put in the work.”

Why so long to postpone?

Jules Boykoff is a former professional soccer player who represented the U.S Olympic team internationally. He’s now a political science professor at Pacific University in Oregon and has written a number of books about the Olympics.

He co-wrote an article last week analyzing why they hadn’t been canceled. There’s a lot of money in the Olympics, he said, but Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also put a lot of “political capital” in making them happen.

“Then there’s also the International Olympic Committee, which has been dogged in insisting that the games must go on, both now in the face of coronavirus, but also historically, when there’s been terrorism, for example, at the 1972 Olympics in Munich,” Boykoff said. “The head of the Olympics at that time, Avery Brundage, said ‘The games must go on.”

He said part of the reason the International Olympic Committee has “changed their tune” is because countries like Canada and Australia pulled out in recent days and an “upsurge in athlete power” as athletes began speaking out.

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