Advertisement

Italian Olympic official: Going on with Games ‘big mistake’ during coronavirus pandemic

“Human life is worth more” than the Olympics’ billion-dollar deals, Giovanni Petrucci says, as calls grow to at least postpone the summer event.
 
FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2020, file photo, two people wear masks as they visit the newly opened Japan Olympic Museum located near the New National Stadium in Tokyo. The Olympic flame from Greece is set to arrive in Japan even as the opening of the the Tokyo Games in four months is in doubt with more voices suggesting the games should to be postponed or canceled because of the worldwide virus pandemic. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2020, file photo, two people wear masks as they visit the newly opened Japan Olympic Museum located near the New National Stadium in Tokyo. The Olympic flame from Greece is set to arrive in Japan even as the opening of the the Tokyo Games in four months is in doubt with more voices suggesting the games should to be postponed or canceled because of the worldwide virus pandemic. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]
Published March 20, 2020

Stories about the coronavirus pandemic are free to read as a public service at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to receive updates weekday mornings. If this coverage is important to you, consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Tampa Bay Times at tampabay.com/subscribe.

• • •

ROME — With the coronavirus death toll now higher in Italy than anywhere else, two senior sports executives from the country issued emotional appeals Thursday to the International Olympic Committee to revise its stance over this summer’s Games in Tokyo.

“I’m not against the Olympics. But saying that the Olympics will still go on is a big mistake in communication,” Giovanni Petrucci, who served as president of the Italian Olympic Committee for 14 years, said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“This pandemic is affecting the entire world,” Petrucci continued, his voice breaking with despair. “I know about the billion-dollar contracts, the insurance deals. I know it all. But human life is worth more than all of those things.”

Petrucci’s call came after region Olympic officials rallied around the IOC’s stance on opening the Games as scheduled July 24.

“I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this way. Others just don’t want to say it,” said Petrucci, now president of the Italian basketball federation. “I don’t want to attack the IOC. There are too many people there that I know. But I don’t know what else to say. I’m not trying to create controversy. I’m a realist. Look at the medical bulletins.”

Athletes have also started questioning the IOC’s unwavering stance that the Olympics are still on.

Athleten Deutschland, the main advocacy group for German athletes, said Thursday that the IOC is “stubbornly moving ahead with the planning of the Games,” even though competitors are struggling to stay fit with restrictions on their lifestyle due to the virus.

Italy, with a population of 60 million, has recorded at least 3,405 deaths, or roughly 150 more than in China, a country with a population over 20 times larger.

“There’s no country that hasn’t been affected. It’s a matter of respect toward those that are suffering,” Petrucci said, refusing to speculate whether the Games should be canceled or postponed. “I’m not the one that should be saying. They should be saying this.”

Paolo Barelli, president of the Italian and European swimming federations, suggested that the IOC needs to decide on the Games’ status by mid April.

“By April 15, there will be some athletes who haven’t trained for two months,” Barelli told the AP. “Athletes are like clocks. They have to train and function impeccably. Many of them still have to qualify, so they need to train not only to qualify but also for the Olympics.

“So any date after mid April becomes very complicated.”

All sports in Italy were suspended 10 days ago when the nation was placed under lockdown.

Events such as the Olympic qualifying meet for the Italian swimming team were postponed indefinitely.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every morning.
Subscribers Only

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

The world champion Italian men’s water polo team has not trained for two weeks due to closed pools and more than half of Italy’s swimming squad has been forced to suspend training, Barelli said.

“How long can they remain out of the water?” said Barelli, also vice president of the International Swimming Federation.

Top Italian swimmers such as Federica Pellegrini and Gregorio Paltrinieri continue to train in Verona and Rome, respectively. But even they might have to get out of the water soon.

“Those that are lucky enough to have their pool open and near their homes can train. But if the pool is (60-125 miles) away, how can they? The venues are operated by sports clubs and cities that can’t afford to keep them open for two or three people,” Barelli said.

Even if they could train, many athletes have lost focus while worrying more about relatives in the areas of northern Italy hardest hit by the virus.

“They’re not training in ideal conditions,” Barelli said. “If this situation continues like this into April, talking about the Olympics is ridiculous.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.

STORES REACT TO VIRUS: Some businesses adjust hours or announce temporary closings.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP: See updates and tips posts, and ask questions of our journalists.

FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Reddit.

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips.

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.