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Thursday, 29 July 2021

INTERVIEW: Athletes' lives are more valuable than Tokyo Games, says Egyptian Olympic chief

Ahram Online speaks with the President of the Egyptian Olympic Committee Hisham Hatab following the postponement of the summer Olympic Games in Tokyo

Ghada Abdel-Kader, Wednesday 25 Mar 2020
Hisham Hatab
File photo of Egypt's Olympic chief Hisham Hatab

For Egypt's Olympic Committee chief, postponing the Tokyo summer Games does not really matter as long as the decision will save lives.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) pushed back the Olympics to next year amid global concern over the rapid spread of the coronavirus.  The Games were scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9August in Japanese capital Tokyo.

"I will go for the decision to save the lives of athletes all over the world, and Egyptians in particular," Hisham Hatab, who heads the Egyptian National Olympic Committee (ENOC), told Ahram Online.

"Their health and safety are more important than the Olympics."

Even before the postponement decision was announced, some countries declared that they would not participate in the Games, such as Canada and Australia.

"I think any country, even Egypt, would have given the same response. It will be too risky to participate," Hatab added.

Egypt will now have to draw up fresh plans for its athletes, who were gearing up for the Olympic Games. Hatab said he is aware that any new arrangements would not be made unless new dates for the qualification phase are announced.

Domestically, ENOC will also have to make some modifications to its preparation plans for the Olympics.

All sports activities in Egypt are suspended at least until mid-April, with the country imposing a two-week nationwide curfew from 7 pm to 6 am to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

"Our plan will now extend to July 2021 instead of July 2020. This means that budget and financial expenses will expand. We will need more financial support from government," Hatab said.

"Things would not be clear until the mid of April. We will wait to see whether the status quo in Egypt and across the globe will remain."

If it is deemed safe next month, Egypt has a plan to hold training camps indoors, Hatab revealed.

"We took all necessary protective and preventive measures to 100 percent guarantee the safety of our athletes. We will put that into effect after 15 April if the circumstances in Egypt allow us," he said.

Hatab also sees a silver lining after the summer Games were postponed.

"I think it is good opportunity to have longer period for preparation and training for the athletes. It will also be fairer to choose the best athletes in the world who are going to compete," he added.
"Even the results and records will be much better. I am expecting that this games will technically outshine any other Olympics held before."



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