Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau

ZIMBABWE’S chef de mission for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Thabani Gonye, has said the rescheduling of the Games gives them time to reflect.

A joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organising Committee yesterday said the Games were to be rescheduled to next year.

This came after Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and IOC president, Thomas Bach, concluded after talks that the Games be rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by WHO today, the IOC president and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.

‘’Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020,” read part of the statement. 

The Games had been scheduled for July 24 to August 9. 

Gonye said it’s a chance to reflect on their plans and taking opportunities of qualifying events when they are availed. 

“We, obviously, always trusted the IOC will make the best decision for the sport and I think, as I said before, life is more important than anything. 

“And, I am sure that that’s where the IOC would have considered all the possibilities and what was on the table.

“At local level, it obviously gives us an opportunity. It gives us a year to then relook and say those who had not planned well to qualify should obviously take an opportunity, to reflect in terms of their plans, and reflect in terms of taking opportunities of qualifying as early as possible.

“So, on our side, that will give us a little bit of time now for people to reflect in terms of where we are and what we can do to obviously take or make this an opportunity to close the gaps that we could have closed,” said Gonye. 

The chef de mission, Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and the national associations targeted for qualifications have been having regular meetings on preparations towards qualification and the Games.

“Remember we used to have these monthly meetings with various national associations. 

“We will obviously get the communication to the various associations once it’s clear, in terms of the pathway for preparation.

“We have to remain alive to the fact that the virus is still around us. So, in terms of when people can actually and effectively start preparing, and going out to prepare, is obviously another matter. 

“But, obviously, it will give us the opportunities to engage with the associations, engage with the athletes and configure plans,” said Gonye. 

So far rowing have booked a slot in the men single sculls at the Games while most of the targeted disciplines had been affected by the current situation as the qualifiers they were targeting were either postponed or cancelled.

Boxing missed qualification at the continental qualifier held in Senegal in February. 

Some of the sport codes Zimbabwe are still pinning their hopes on include athletics, swimming, judo and golf.