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USOC postpones Olympic athlete summit in L.A. because of coronavirus

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The United States Olympic Committee announced on Monday that it is postponing a planned summit of athletes in Los Angeles because of coronavirus concerns.

The event was scheduled for March 15-18 in Downtown Los Angeles as an opportunity for athletes competing in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to meet with members of the media.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and in an effort to limit any potential exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) by Team USA athletes, members of the media, staff and volunteers, we have made the decision to postpone the 2020 Team USA Media Summit,” a statement from USOPC spokeswoman Luella Chavez D’Angelo reads.

“We are already at work exploring ways to recreate, or find new, opportunities for athletes and media – be they in-person or remote. We thank all who had planned to attend for their interest, support and understanding.”

Notable athletes planned to attend

Several prominent U.S. athletes were scheduled to attend, including six-time Olympic champion sprinter Allyson Felix, two-time Olympic and World Cup champion soccer player Carli Lloyd and six-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte.

Basketball players Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne and A'ja Wilson, gymnasts Riley McCusker, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey, sprinters Michael Norman and Sydney McLaughlin and swimmer Regan Smith were also among the athletes also scheduled to attend.

Six-time Olympic gold medalist Alyson Felix was among the athletes scheduled to attend the postponed Olympic summit. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

‘Simply isn’t worth the risk’

In a letter to athletes, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland explained that the USOPC determined through consulting with medical experts that continuing with the summit as planned presented a risk not worth taking with the games months away.

“Like so many other organizations, teams and leagues, we are reckoning with the impact of the coronavirus,” Hirshland wrote. “As we weighed this decision, we relied on the expert opinion of our USOPC medical staff, our Infectious Disease Advisory Group, CDC professionals and local leaders, and came to the joint conclusion that the potential of spread or infection, however remote or unlikely, could have a real impact on the athletes of Team USA. 

“With 136 days to the opening of the Olympic Games, and 168 to the opening of the Paralympic Games, that simply isn’t a risk worth taking.”

COVID-19’s impact on sports world

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on the sports world. The Italian government announced on Monday that all sporting events in the country will be postponed until at least April 3.

Sporting events in the United States are largely moving forward uninterrupted for now, but major sports leagues including the NBA and MLB announced on Monday that they’re limiting media access to players and locker rooms in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile the NCAA tournament is scheduled to go on as planned.

With the outbreak concentrated in Asia, concerns linger about the viability of the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 24. Organizers say the games will go on as planned.

“I would like to encourage all the athletes to continue their preparation for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with great confidence and with full steam,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said at a news conference last week.

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