Inspired by Olympic delay, track meet in Prague to go ahead

PRAGUE (AP) — The one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has inspired organizers of a track meet in the Czech Republic to go ahead with their event in June, albeit with limits on athletes and events.

The Josef Odlozil Memorial in Prague will be staged as planned on June 8 but with only 50-60 competitors because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, meet director Miroslav Sevcik told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The meet is named after middle-distance runner Josef Odlozil, who won the silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Odlozil’s success at those games served as an inspiration after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed last month for one year because of the pandemic, Sevcik said.

“He was a big fighter,” Sevcik said. “We also want to fight for the meet to take place. And above all, (we want) to give our athletes some motivation to continue in training and start their preparations for next year’s Olympics.”

Most sporting events around the world are being postponed or canceled amid the health crisis. But Sevcik said the Czech government’s plan to gradually relax restrictions gives the meet some room to work with.

The plan is to compete in only a handful of events, including the men’s 100, 200, 1,500, 110 hurdles, long jump and javelin, and the women’s 800 and javelin. Further details are expected to be released in early May.

“We’ll make sure that no more than 40 people, including athletes, referees and others, will be on the track and field at any moment,” Sevcik said.

Starting this week, professional athletes in the Czech Republic are allowed to train outdoors in small groups of eight with no contact between them.

On June 8, the day the Josef Odlozil Memorial is scheduled to happen, the government is planning to make it possible to organize sporting events with up to 50 participating athletes. Team sports competitions could also restart that day, including possibly professional soccer, but without spectators.


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