Sat | Mar 28, 2020

World Under-20 in jeopardy – Blake

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2020 | 12:16 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

In the wake of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, the head of Jamaica’s track and field federation suspects that the 2020 World Athletics Under-20 Championships may well be affected similarly.

Speaking hours before the Tokyo announcement, Warren Blake, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), said the coronavirus has put all games set for this year in jeopardy.

“As far as we know now, it is still on because I haven’t got any communication to suggest otherwise, but I suspect, and this is me as a doctor talking, that all games are in jeopardy with what is taking place with the coronavirus outbreak worldwide, and especially in Europe,” said Blake.

Initially, the local federation had asked coaches to keep candidates in training for this year’s event in Nairobi, Kenya.

“But we are not sure how much of this is still going on, given the fact that school is closed and children are advised to stay home, and a lot of the training would, of necessity, take place at the school compound,” Blake submitted.

Thanks to double winning sprinter Briana Williams, discus thrower Kai Chang and champion 110-metre hurdler Damion Thomas, Jamaica won 4 gold medals in 2018 when the Finnish city of Tampere hosted 1462 athletes from almost 160 countries at the last World Under-20 Championships.

Blake is worried that a breakout could occur in Africa.

“A lot of people are hoping that because it’s a coronavirus, a flu-type virus, that with the advent of warmer weather, the flu season will stop or get less, and the number of new cases will become significantly reduced,” he outlined. “But we live in a world that has both North and South hemispheres ... and that happens in the North, it might very well break out in Africa because Africa would then be experiencing their winter.”

As at March 23, Kenya has recorded 15 confirmed cases of the virus and has suspended international flights.

According to the JAAA president, the outlook is bleak.

“It doesn’t look good at all for the sport and entertainment industry, because the entertainment industry brings a lot of people together in a common space, and that is going to be key in fighting COVID-19,” he analysed.

Therefore, it is his expectation that restrictions on mass gatherings will continue.

“When I go into the journals and I look at the predictions at bringing an outbreak of an infectious disease under control, they’re all predicated on three months,” Blake concluded.

The virus had already led to the postponement of the World Indoor Championships, which were set for earlier this month in Nanjing, China.