Coronavirus pandemic

Athletics hopes for an August restart

Coe says it is looking at a series of meetings, so athletes can return to competition quickly

LOS ANGELES • World Athletics is working to restart a shuttered athletics season and studying any changes that may be needed in the qualifying process for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, president Sebastian Coe said on Friday.

In a letter addressed to the athletics community, he said the governing body is hoping to offer a series of meetings that may begin in August but only when it is "safe to do" so amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

He added: "We are mindful that our athletes need to compete at some point this year, so they can benchmark their performances and adjust their training accordingly for an Olympic Games in 2021.

"We are also looking at how we can preserve an outdoor competition season this year with a series of one-day meetings on each continent that may begin as late as August and run to early October, so our athletes can get back in to competition as quickly as possible."

World Athletics also hopes to provide an answer soon regarding any changes to the Olympics qualifying criteria. It began reviewing its qualification process after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and sports federations agreed that all athletes currently qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games will remain so for next year's event.

"In athletics, the primary qualification avenue is by meeting the entry standards set out in March 2019," Coe said.

"Once those places are allocated, the remaining athletes are drawn from the world ranking list.

"As of today, all athletes who have met the entry standards for their event will remain qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. This is approximately 50 per cent of the places."

Meanwhile, many expect next year's Aug 6-15 world championships in Eugene, Oregon to be postponed to 2022, should the Olympic Games be scheduled for the summer.

"We don't yet know the date for the Games next year," Coe said.

"But once they (the IOC and Japanese government) have made it, we will look at what, if any, impact that decision has on our World Athletics Championships Oregon 21."

A major review is also under way of the global calendar of events, not just for the next two years, which will see some major disruptions, but for the long term.

The decision comes as athletics' Diamond League announced on Friday the series has cancelled its meetings up till June but hopes to have a late season.

"The priority for all of us right now is to contain the pandemic, stay healthy and stay home," Coe urged. "But where we can continue to drive our sport forward.

"The world will not be the same after this pandemic."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 29, 2020, with the headline 'Athletics hopes for an August restart'. Subscribe