TOKYO — Amid concerns about the 2026 Winter Games bidding process, a legal case hanging over a powerful International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and lingering questions over boxing’s future at the Games, Olympic delegates will have a lot on their plate this week in Tokyo.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), said last week he had temporarily stepped down from his roles in the Olympic body amid an ongoing legal case in Switzerland.
The Kuwaiti, who also heads the Olympic Council of Asia, did not give any details of the case but has denied any wrongdoing. Kuwaiti media reports said it was linked to a domestic issue.
Sheikh Ahmad appeared set to be re-elected as ANOC president during the General Assembly but some media reports have said the election could be postponed.
On Friday, Tokyo, which will stage the 2020 Summer Games, also hosts an IOC Executive Board meeting where Olympic chief Thomas Bach could face tough questions relating to the situation involving his close ally Sheikh Ahmad.
Delegates from 206 national Olympic committees and IOC officials are arriving for the meetings, which will also discuss the bidding process for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
With only two candidates remaining, the teams behind the Milan and Stockholm bids are due to make presentations at the ANOC General Assembly.
The IOC must also address the recent election of Uzbek businessman Gafur Rahimov as the president of international boxing association AIBA. The IOC is currently weighing up the future of boxing as an Olympic sport due to ongoing issues with AIBA’s finances and governance.
Bach on Sunday stressed his concern over extreme heat during the Tokyo 2020 Games, suggesting plans to further bring forward the marathon start time. Bach and John Coates, vice president of IOC, met Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike ahead of an IOC committee meeting later this week in the capital.
Bach told Koike that heatwaves are „concern for us“ if temperatures shoot up again in 2020 following record temperatures this summer. Experts have warned that extreme heat could affect several sporting events at the Olympic games, particularly after Tokyo sweltered through a record heatwave this year.
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers have acknowledged the concerns and already brought forward the marathon start time by 30 minutes to 7:00 a.m., with competitive walking starting even earlier. But Coates suggested the IOC may further move the start time to 6:00 a.m. or even 5:30 a.m.
AOC slams funding cuts for
minor sports ahead of Tokyo
Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has hit out at funding cuts to minor sports announced on Monday, saying they would create „enormous problems“ for planning and budgeting ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The government-funded Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) announced a new investment model, which will boost high performance funds for a number of sports but cut funding to others deemed to have lower medal-winning chances.
AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said that athletes‘ preparations could be hampered by financial concerns. „Sports that are lifting performance through well thought-out strategic plans, employing coaches and driving improvement in their systems have found themselves abandoned or facing great uncertainty,“ Carroll said in a statement.
„It would be naive to think that high performance athletes can enjoy their best preparation when there is financial pressure on coaching, programs, competitions and rising costs.“
The AIS said in a statement on Monday that „a small number“ of sports faced funding cuts after June 2019. „Having advised these sports and organizations about our funding decisions, we are giving them time to digest the information and advise their athletes and stakeholders before public announcements are made,“ AIS Director Peter Conde said.
„We are confident that these changes will not impact on Olympic or Paralympic podium success.“ Australia’s national table tennis federation confirmed its funding had been cut.
„The AIS has determined that, relative to other sports, they consider table tennis has a low probability to win a medal at the 2020 Olympic Games, or win a gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games,“ Table Tennis Australia said.
Local media reported that synchronized swimming had also had its program cut. Federation Synchro Australia was unable to provide immediate comment.
The investment shakeup boosts funding for 12 high performance programs from 2019 including women’s soccer, rugby sevens and women’s softball, the AIS said.