S.A.S.N.O.C. to meet athletes following Samoa's 'withdrawal'
The Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.) will convene an urgent meeting today with athletes who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next month, following a report that the caretaker Government has banned Samoa's participation.
Radio New Zealand reported Thursday that the caretaker Government has banned Samoan athletes from competing at the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report also claimed Samoa's national team is yet to be officially notified of their withdrawal and quoted caretaker Minister of Communications, Afamasaga Rico Tupa'i as saying the Cabinet decided to withdraw the national team due to reports of Japan's 500 daily infection rate.
The caretaker Minister reportedly said Japan's infection rate was too high a risk for Samoan athletes who qualified.
Samoa had already selected athletes from several sports including weightlifting, boxing, sailing and athletics with the Manu Samoa rugby sevens team falling short of qualification last week.
It is understood the decision by the Cabinet and the subsequent media reports caught local sporting officials at the S.A.S.N.O.C. off guard, consequently the convening of the urgent meeting with the athletes on Thursday afternoon.
It is not known whether the decision by the Cabinet covers both local and overseas athletes who will be making their way to Japan from their countries of residence for the July 23 to August 8 sporting event.
Communist state North Korea is the only country to formally announced its withdrawal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which reportedly announced it late March this year that it wanted to protect its athletes from the coronavirus pandemic.
Debate currently rages in Japan with protests by Japanese against their country's hosting of the games amidst the global pandemic ongoing and showing no signs of abating.
Data provided by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) shows Japan has reported 1330 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours with 798,159 confirmed cases and 14,740 deaths.
Despite the rise in infection rates in Japan, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reportedly continued to maintain that the games will be held safely despite the surge.