The German art gymnast Andreas Toba has spoken out in urgent words for a relocation of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and addressed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) directly. “Dear IOC, please release the worldwide sports community from the pressure to give everything for the dream, even if it is impossible in the current situation,” wrote Toba on Thursday on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The games should be postponed until “when the Olympic values can once again be lived without exception”.
Despite the corona pandemic, the IOC continues to hold the opening of the games in Japan on July 24th. The 29-year-old Toba from Hanover thinks this is wrong: “We cannot maintain the values of sport such as fairness, equality, team spirit, respect in the current crisis”, writes the gymnast, who among other things considers the different training conditions to be critical in an international comparison considered.
Toba’s social media posting generated positive reactions nationally and internationally, and he had received feedback from “half Europe, America, Japan, Brazil”, Toba told SPIEGEL on Friday. Since noon, the entry has received more positive reviews than its 2016 news from the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Back then, Toba made the headlines when he did an exercise on the pommel horse in the team competition despite a cruciate ligament tear, thus enabling the German team to reach the final. Media named him “Hero de Janeiro”, in the same year Toba was awarded the Bambi Audience Award.
MIRROR: What prompted you to speak out in public for the postponement of the Olympic Games?
Toba: I have to say that I was extremely touched by our Federal Chancellor’s speech on Wednesday. It may sound cheesy, but it was like when a mother talked into her children’s conscience that they should listen to them because they knew what they were talking about. She doesn’t tell us that because she enjoys it and to keep us on a short leash, but because she has responsibility for us. I was so moved that at that moment I said to myself: it can’t possibly go on like this! Especially since the IOC published a statement on the same day, in which it was announced that the Olympics are still being held on and that we athletes should continue to prepare. By contrast, Ms. Merkel: stay at home, avoid social contacts, exercise as little as possible. Two completely contrary statements! This brings us athletes into a conflict: what should I stick to now?
MIRROR: They chose politics.
Toba: See: Of course, if you want, you can express everything even more drastically than I have now. But we have reached a point where we have to adhere to certain guidelines – not just as athletes, but as citizens of Germany, Europe and around the world. It’s about life or death. Many simply have not yet understood that.
MIRROR: When exactly did you choose your post on Instagram and Facebook?
Toba: It probably sounds a bit exaggerated and exaggerated, but I’m a person who thinks about things for a long time. Even if I made a mistake in the competition or something, that takes me away and keeps me busy for a long time. It was the same here. On Thursday morning I discussed with my surroundings whether it made sense to speak publicly. Ultimately, I decided: I’ll do it.
MIRROR: Did you have any concerns before pressing Submit to publish it?
Toba: Yes. I was already worried that the action would lead to criticism rather than approval. I knew that a few athletes had the same idea as me, but I didn’t know that there were so many.
MIRROR: What were the reactions?
Toba: Overwhelmingly positive, both at home and abroad. I get a lot of encouragement and personal messages, not only from athletes, but also from officials who have similar thoughts to me.
MIRROR: Has the IOC already contacted you?
Toba: No, but see: in the end the IOC wants the same thing as everyone else: everyone wants to go to the Olympics! This is the biggest dream of every athlete. That’s why I don’t want a cancellation, but a postponement to a date on which fair play and equal opportunities can be guaranteed. Who else should I contact than the IOC directly? They have it in hand.
MIRROR: Do you understand the behavior of the IOC to continue with the start date in July?
Toba: No, I also expressed that. The IOC is hoping that the virus will be contained in four months so that it is no longer a problem. But you can already see today that it won’t work! Statements by virologists and other experts go in a different direction, namely that we won’t be over in four months. There’s nothing left to hope for. So you should stand by it and say: We can’t do it, both from a sporting point of view and in terms of the preparations in Japan itself. And in my opinion, now is the right time to make this decision.