Hockey in Tokyo 2020: Gold for both finalists in case of no title clash due to COVID

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Tokyo, Jul 16 (PTI) Saddled with many 'ifs and buts' around the conduct of hockey at the Olympics, The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Friday said if finalists at the Tokyo Games are ruled of the title clash due to COVID-19, both teams will be awarded gold medals.

The FIH also said the discretion to withdraw from hockey events in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID outbreak within a team will lie with the respective competing nations.

Terming the Tokyo Olympics as 'different from the normal Games', FIH CEO Thierry Weil said a team can still keep on playing even when multiple cases are reported within the group.

He said there are still many 'ifs and buts' surrounding the rules and regulations which need further clarifications but hoped that a situation where a team needs to withdraw from the competition because of COVID doesn't arise at all.

'It will not be the same Games as before. The athletes and all associated with the Games know very well that theirs and public's health are at stake,' Weil said during a virtual press briefing a week before the Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23.

Asked about the rules framed for a side's withdrawal from hockey competition due to positive COVID cases, the FIH CEO said: 'There are no numbers fixed. It's the teams discretion when to withdraw. If a team has for example 6, 7 positive cases, they still can play.

'Until a complete team is affected, I feel withdrawal won't happen.' According to Weil, the FIH has already prepared the Sports Specific Regulations (SSR) for the extra-ordinary Olympics, which states that two gold medals will be given if both finalists are struck by COVID.

As per the SSR, if a team can't play a pool game it will be considered a 5-0 win for the other team. In case both teams fail to turn up, it will be considered a goalless draw.

However, the teams can play the remaining pool matches if they are able to.

'If both the finalist teams are forced to withdraw then in that case both the teams will get gold medals. It is already mentioned in our Sports Specific Regulations (SSR),' Weil said.

The SSR also states that if a team withdraws or is unable to participate in the bronze medal match, such a side will not be replaced, and the remaining team will be allocated the bronze medal.

In case the two teams due to play in the bronze medal match are unable to compete, both the teams will be awarded a bronze medal.

The FIH CEO said COVID had posed an unprecedented situation for all stakeholders related to the Games and many things will only get clearer once the real action starts.

'A lot of unanswered questions are there. For example a losing team or athlete generally leaves soon after their competition but I don't know what will happen in Tokyo,' Weil said.

'No team or athlete wants to win a medal after losing.' Traditionally, hockey teams in Olympics comprise 16 players each but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made an exception this time around, allowing every competing nation to have two extra players and a reserve goalkeeper in their squads.

As per the IOC, the sports in which 'alternate athletes' will be able to replace permanent players in each match are hockey, football, handball, rugby and water polo, while the reserve goalkeeper will come in the picture only in case of an injury to the first-choice custodian.

Despite the additions, only 16 players will be able to play in a match and the teams will have to submit their list a day before their games. The FIH clarified that management of accommodation of alternate athletes and reserve goalkeeper in Tokyo, whether at the Games Village or designated hotel, rests with respective National Olympic Committees (NOC).

He said that every athlete or official will have to follow complete protocol while shifting from one bio-bubble to the other.

'We are thankful to the IOC for accepting our request to enable teams to have more flexibility in terms of number of players available due to COVID.

'But the decision and responsibility of accommodation of alternate players in Tokyo lies with respective NOCs,' Weil said.

'...everyone from officials to athletes will be tested every morning, be it in the village or hotels. Movements of everyone will be very limited, from hotel to venue and back or from Games Village to venue and back.' The Tokyo hockey events will start on July 24. PTI SSC PM PM

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