Tokyo Olympics: 'Incredibly difficult' to stage Games, says coach Stephen Maguire

By Heather DewarBBC Scotland
Cyclists wearing face masks with the Tokyo Olympic logo in the background
The Tokyo Olympic Games are due to take place from 24 July to 9 August

It will be "incredibly difficult" for the Tokyo Olympics to go ahead as planned in July, believes Stephen Maguire, a leading coach with Scottish Athletics and Team GB.

Japan are still planning a "complete" Games, with fans in attendance, despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing the postponement of sporting events worldwide.

The International Olympic Committee will have the final say on whether to reschedule.

"They need to make a decision pretty soon," Maguire told BBC Scotland.

"They will absolutely have the athletes' interests at heart, but there's major considerations around when it's going to happen, if it's going to happen.

"Looking at things at the moment, you'd say this is going to be incredibly difficult to start in July.

"The first three Diamond Leagues are cancelled, the athletes' ability to be able to train and compete is in darkness. It's the not knowing, the earlier we can be told the better, but I do understand how difficult it is."

Maguire, who is Scottish Athletics' director of performance and coaching and also helms the GB sprint and relay squads, has seen Tokyo 2020 preparations severely disrupted by the virus.

And he says uncertainty over whether the showpiece will take place is having a detrimental effect on some athletes' mental health, with the availability of qualification events another source of worry.

"Anything that is an interference becomes a distraction," he said. "For some athletes that raises things a real tense level of intensity, a level where they don't know, so they find it difficult to cope with.

"It is an issue, from the psychology end of things we are speaking to a lot of people about.

"The early part of the season has now been cancelled, it throws everything in doubt.

"How do we get competitions, to run the times we need, throw the distance we need or jump the height required? That's the bit that's compromising them at the moment."

A prolonged postponement would also significantly affect athletes in both a sporting and financial sense, according to Maguire.

"The impact on athletes is going to be very, very big, particularly if it goes a year or two," he added. "That's a big change to plans, psychology and to their earning capacity too."

'Trying to crack on as if things are normal'

Scottish athlete Lynsey Sharp
Lynsey Sharp is preparing to take part in her third Olympic Games

Lynsey Sharp already has a qualifying time for the 800m but the 29-year-old echoed Maguire's concerns, telling BBC Scotland's The Nine: "At the moment we're struggling to see how things can go ahead as planned.

"A lot of people worldwide are struggling to train, which is one issue, and competitions are starting to get cancelled.

"We're just trying to crack on as if things are normal, that's the mentality we need to have.

"The track in Loughborough has been kept open, British Athletics are doing everything they can. If that gets closed, we'll look to train on the roads, hills, but as we get closer to competition time it's not going to be possible to replicate specific track work.

"The most frustrating thing is that no decision has been made. We don't really mind whether it's postponed or not but we'd like to know definitively so we can adjust and work out what we're doing."