Senior Australian athletics coach Nic Bideau believes this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo will be postponed because thousands of leading athletes have not been able to suitably prepare for the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As reported by the Brisbane Times, Bideau, who trains some of Australia's best middle-distance runners, said many of the major nations in athletics were unlikely to be able to choose teams under the normal qualifying system.
National Championships in the United States and European countries are among those in doubt due to crowd restrictions, while Athletics Australia has already postponed its event, which had been scheduled to take place in Sydney from March 21 to 29.
"At the moment the situation is getting worse, not better [in the US and many countries in Europe] so those events will be unlikely to go ahead," Bideau was reported as saying by the Brisbane Times.
"The big countries won't have teams to send.
"I think they will end up having the Games pushed back 12 months rather than cancelled.
"The small sports need the Olympics for profile and money coming in – they can't survive without the Olympics, so I think they will push it back 12 months."
Last week, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe promised that the international governing body stands ready to help athletes impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and expressed his belief the sport is well placed with the qualification process for Tokyo 2020.
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The pandemic has forced the postponement of numerous Tokyo 2020 qualifiers in various sports, leaving officials with a headache over how to resolve the situation fairly.
Coe claimed athletics was less impacted than other sports with regard to qualification events, with athletes having numerous opportunities to earn Tokyo 2020 spots.
But while it may be possible for nations in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia and South Africa, to select teams due to the fact that their domestic summer seasons have just ended, the majority of European countries as well as Canada and the US are not in the same position and have also not had athletes achieve qualifying standards.
"We could pick our team from qualified athletes and world rankings and so could South Africa but at the moment people are not thinking about that [qualifying for Olympics] – they are thinking what will happen with the world?" Bideau added.
"Is it worth thinking about playing sport and running competitions when this is happening?
"Everyone is marking time for a month, training a bit, and hoping that events can be held in June in Europe and the US, but it is unlikely those events can be held."
The pandemic has fuelled suggestions the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics could be postponed or cancelled, claims repeatedly denied by the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020, who have refused to alter their stance that the event will go ahead as planned.
But the impact on qualification for International Federations remains the most pressing issue in the coming months as organisers scramble to rearrange events to ensure a fair system for athletes.