TOKYO : Pole Vault champion says Olympics can be held without fans instead of cancellation :

Olympics pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi has spoken out strongly in favour of going ahead with the Tokyo Games, nearly a year after she led calls to postpone the event over the coronavirus pandemic.

Stefanidi told Jaoan's Kyodo news agency that it would be better to hold the Olympics without fans than not at all, adding that she thought athletes were overwhelmingly in favor of competing.

''I think if we have to have the Olympics without spectators, I would prefer that than not having the Games at all,'' Stefanidi, who is a member of World Athletics Athletes' Commission, was quoted as saying.

Stefanidi had voiced concerns for athletes' safety before the International Olympic Committee took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games last March.

''The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family's health and public health to train every day?'' she tweeted at the time.

The 30-year-old said around 80 percent of World Athletics athletes polled at that time supported either cancelling or postponing the Olympics.

But she believes 80 percent would now be in favor of the Games if asked again.

''I think that it's a very different situation than what we had last year, where we didn't really know anything about the virus,'' she said.

On Friday. Japan's government denied a report in The Times that said officials see cancelling the Olympics as inevitable. The American, Canadian and SAustralian national Olympic committees also stressed they were still preparing their athletes for Tokyo.

Stefanidi also said she would prefer the Games to go be held without spectators, something the  organizers have floated as a possibility - than be cancelled.

''If we can have the Olympics with some spectators, that will be better of course.... for me the worst case scenario would be to completely cancel,'' she said. [AFP]


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