Olympic cancellation talk doesn't faze us says Irish boxing chief Bernard Dunne

Irish Athletic Boxing Association High Performance director Bernard Dunne pictured at the launch of the new ‘Indeed Career Coach’ programme, which aims to tackle the core issues high performance athletes encounter when transitioning to life outside elite sport. Over the coming year, Indeed – a proud partner of Team Ireland - is committed to helping hundreds of amateur Irish high performance athletes, current and retired, unleash their talent by providing them with the career tools and supports needed to plan for a professional career beyond sport. For more information on Indeed Career Coach, visit:
Picture by INPHO
Neil Loughran

IT’S just over five months until the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics are set to begin – and Bernard Dunne expects the Games to go ahead as planned, despite growing speculation that they could yet be cancelled.

Almost a year since becoming the first Games to be postponed in the modern Olympics’ 125-year history, much of Japan is now under a state of emergency as a result of a third wave of Covid-19.

As a result officials have faced some opposition from the Japanese public and concern among athletes, sponsors and volunteers. However, Thomas Bach - the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – has stated that the Games will commence on July 23 as planned, even if they end up going ahead without crowds.

It is a worrying time for Irish athletes too as they tailor their preparations towards the summer but Dunne – director of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association’s High Performance Unit – isn’t fearing the worst.

“I sit in on meetings with the Boxing Taskforce and IOC members and all the messages we are getting is that the Games will happen.

“So I have not had anybody saying anything about cancellation, or even postponement.”

In terms of the impact the constant speculation could have on his boxing team, many of whom are preparing for the resumption of the European Olympic qualifier in April, Dunne insists their focus is elsewhere.

That qualifier was due to be held in London, where it began in March 2020 before being suspended three days in, and national teams are now awaiting official word on where the competition will be hosted.

“We can't control that,” said the former World super-bantamweight champion, who was speaking at the launch of the new ‘Indeed Career Coach’ programme.

“We can't control what happens with the Olympic Games. What we focus on and encourage our athletes to focus on is their preparation and getting as ready as they possibly can be.

“The worrying parts of anything that happens, I'll take that burden on and I'll worry about those, and the coaches will worry about those. But what we want the athletes to focus on is what they can control.

“We can't control when the qualifier happens, they can't control where it's going to happen so why waste our energy thinking about it? We're honest with them, we communicate very clearly with the guys any information that comes to us and we don't withhold anything from them.

“So we have that trust built amongst the group so we'll keep them aware of anything that's going on and that, I think, is really important within this context.”

The IOC confirmed yesterday that athletes and officials will not be required to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in order to take part in Tokyo 2020, after athletes from some other federations were accelerated up the vaccination queue in their countries.

The Irish boxing team is due to compete at a multi-nations tournament in Bulgaria this month, but Dunne says there has been “no real discussion” about possible early vaccinations for elite athletes.

“What we want is what is best for our athletes and what will keep them safe and healthy.

“We are very much focused on the Games. We completed a survey a few weeks ago in relation to it but it's not something that is immediately on our athletes' minds at this point in time, or something that we are openly discussing.”

* Watch Bernard Dunne discuss his transition from the ring to retirement in this video

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