The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is seeking to find a solution with "the least negative impact for the athletes", after the organisation received criticism for its insistence that Tokyo 2020 will go ahead as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The IOC said yesterday there was no need for "any drastic decisions at this stage" in relation to Tokyo 2020.
This is despite more than 204,000 coronavirus cases being reported worldwide and more than 8,200 deaths, leading to countries taking extreme action to halt the spread.
IOC Athletes' Commission member Hayley Wickenheiser claimed the IOC's insistence the Olympics will go ahead as planned was "irresponsible" on Twitter.
In a series of posts, Wickenheiser – who won four Olympic gold medals as part of the Canadian ice hockey team – called not entertaining the idea of a postponement or cancellation "insensitive and irresponsible".
Wickenheiser said "this crisis is bigger than even the Olympics" and that it was "terrible" some athletes did not know where they could train but were still expected to prepare for the Games.
The IOC Athletes' Commission are due to hold a conference call with the Global Network of Athletes' Commission to discuss COVID-19 today.
Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece echoed Wickenheiser's comments, accusing the IOC of leaving athletes "at risk".
Stefanidi added she "would like to see that there is a concern for the risk to our health" and is worried that it may be dangerous for athletes to train at present.
World heptathlon champion Katerina Johnson-Thompson also expressed concerns over having the ability to train for the Games, saying everything but the ultimate deadline of the Olympics had changed.
Johnson-Thompson has returned to Britain from her training base in France, with the country having gone into lockdown as part of measures aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus.
I understand that sport isn’t everything and there are more important issues sourrounding coronavirus but thought I would speak out purely on what my situation of it has been. Hope the UK, France and the rest of the world stay safe and look after each other in these crazy times❤️ pic.twitter.com/0zxECDetpM— KJT (@JohnsonThompson) March 17, 2020
The IOC have responded to the criticism ahead of the planned start of the Olympics on July 24.
"This is an exceptional situation which requires exceptional solutions," an IOC statement read.
"The IOC is committed to finding a solution with the least negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes' health.
"No solution will be ideal in this situation, and this is why we are counting on the responsibility and solidarity of the athletes."
The IOC also held a conference call with athlete representatives, which Bach claimed the organisation would act in the interests of the athletes.
"We have just had a really great call with 220 athlete representatives from all around the world, it was very constructive and gave us a lot of insight," he said.
"We aimed to continue being very realistic in our analysis.
"We were confronted with many concerns about the qualification system and the restrictions being in place now.
"We were also very constructive in consideration of the way to Tokyo.
"We will keep acting in a responsible way that is in the interest of the athletes whilst always respecting our two principles - the safeguarding and health of the athletes and contributing to the containment of the virus, and secondly to protect the interest of the athletes and Olympic sport."
Very constructive call with 220 athlete reps from around the world. Discussing the corona virus and how it’s impacting athletes. Here are a few key takeaways. #unite #Tokyo2020 #coronavirus @Olympics @Athlete365 @Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/84j0YBkggR— Kirsty Coventry (@KirstyCoventry) March 18, 2020
IOC Athletes' Commission chair Kirsty Coventry admitted in a seperate video that athletes had expressed concerns over their health and the health of their families.
Coventry encouraged athletes to "keep doing what they are doing", before saying athletes on the call did want to see the Games take place in July.
She admitted the "landscape is ever changing."
The IOC yesterday held a conference call with representatives of International Federations.
This was due to the sporting calendar having been severely impacted, with several Olympic qualifiers and World Championships being postponed or cancelled.
The IOC admitted athletes were facing "significant challenges" in their attempts to qualify for Tokyo 2020 because of the virus, the main focus of the conference call with heads of the Summer Olympic Federations.
A total of 57 per cent of the 11,000 athletes have qualified for the Games, and the IOC said it will "work with the IFs to make any necessary and practical adaptations to their respective qualification systems" for the remaining 43 per cent of places.