Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet says suspending 2020 Games was 'only possible option'

Belgian says holding the Olympics this year would have been unfair on athletes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) says postponing the 2020 Tokyo Games "was the only possible option."

As the world continues to battle with the coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Organising Committee took the decision to postpone the Games on Tuesday, saying they will take place by summer 2021.

There are currently over 380,000 recorded Covid-19 cases worldwide with around 16,500 deaths.

Van Avermaet, who won the gold medal in the road race at Rio 2016, says it is the right decision to take, not only in terms of the safety of athletes, staff and spectators, but because most athletes are currently unable to fully train with lockdowns across many countries.

Cycling is currently suspended until April 30 at least, though May's Giro d'Italia has already been suspended. Riders would have little preparation time ahead of the gruelling 234km race, which contains almost 5000m of climbing, if it went ahead as planned on July 25.

"It’s obviously disappointing to see the Olympic Games postponed as they were a big goal for me this year," Van Avermaet said.

"But, I completely support the decision as it is clear at a time like this that health and safety are the biggest priority and it wouldn’t have been possible to safely stage an event like the Olympic Games with thousands of people coming from all over the world.

"I think postponing the Games was the only possible option as we face so many uncertainties in the coming months and it would not have provided a fair playing field with everyone’s preparation and training put on hold right now. Even the selection process for teams would have been impossible."

For riders and athletes, the postponement of races and the Olympics means the opportunity to better prepare for next year once the pandemic has passed, though it also means a year missed in what are relatively short careers.

Van Avermaet, 34 - who would have been targetting a maiden Tour of Flanders victory on April 5 - says it "isn ideal" to be another year older as he looks to defend his gold medal, but says he'll have as much incentive take victory in Tokyo in 2021.

"Of course, the postponement means I will be another year older which isn’t ideal but I know I will be as motivated as ever next year," Van Avermaet added.

"It is an honor to be the Olympic Champion and now I will enjoy some more time wearing the gold bands on my CCC Team jersey and of course, I hope I can wear them beyond 2021 as well."

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).