By James Toney
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach claims continued speculation about this summer's Olympics in Tokyo is harming athletes and must stop.
Four-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Matthew Pinsent incensed some athletes when he suggested scrapping the event and awarding Tokyo the 2032 edition while London 2012 organiser Sir Keith Mills claimed he believed the Games were 'unlikely' to go ahead.
And swim legend Mark Spitz last night said the number of athletes should be slashed with only semis and finals in some sports - a non-starter concept that would make the Games for the world's elite, rather than the world.
Leading British swimmer Alice Dearing has quit social media because of the pressures of seeing the disruptive daily headlines, with one member of the British Olympic Association's athletes' group labelling talking heads 'cruel' for adding weight to the continued conjecture.
"Our task is to organise the Olympic Games, not to cancel it. We're working day and night to organise a safe Games in Tokyo and we will not add fuel to the speculation," said Bach.
"The organisation of an Olympic Games is extremely complex and this is multiplied when it comes to organising a postponed Games under the conditions of a pandemic. There is no blueprint for this, we're learning everyday.
"Nobody can predict the health situation in 206 national Olympic committees at the time of the Games, not even the most prominent scientists in this area.
"This leads to speculation and this is hurting the athletes in their preparations. There is speculation about everything, some even proposed postponing these Games to 2032. Good luck discussing this with an athlete.
"We are not speculating on whether the Games will take place, we are working on how they will take place. But it's also too early to tell which of the many Covid countermeasures will be the appropriate ones at the time of the Games.
"We ask for patience and understanding and if we thought the Olympic Games were not safe to stage we would not go for it.
"We don't want to destroy the Olympic dreams of any athlete. We are still working on the basis of having athletes in Tokyo for all events. We need to concentrate on essentials and that's the field of play and a fair and safe competition."
IOC officials are currently completing a number of 'playbooks' covering everything from spectators to provisions for the vast numbers of accredited 'Games family', which covers everything from international dignitaries to sponsors, partners, broadcasters and media.
However, Bach is pointing to the ongoing World Handball Championships in Egypt, where 3,000 athletes and officials are in attendance, as an example of how it can be done.
"Since this started 7,000 events have been organised by international sports federations with 175,000 Covid tests and only 0.18% were positive. None of these competitions developed into hot spots, this is why we are so confident," he added.
"Sport is alive right now, even under these most difficult circumstances. Staging the Games is not based on wishful thinking, it is based on solid ground."
The Japanese government do not expect to begin their vaccination programme until May, four months behind many other countries.
Bach wants national Olympic committees to liaise with their respective governments about the provision of vaccines for athletes but has always stated there should be no queue jumping.
Instead he is hoping the picture with those requiring priority jabs could be better by this summer.
"We have always made it clear that we are not in favour of athletes jumping the queue for vaccines," said Bach.
"The first in line must be high-risk groups and health care workers and the people who keep our society alive. It is up to each government to decide on access to vaccinations in their respective countries and this is why we've asked the national Olympic committees to see what time it's appropriate to give athletes access.
"Vaccination is not the silver bullet that solves all the problems, it is part of the measures. However, we do encourage everybody to accept a vaccination in solidarity with the Japanese people and their fellow Olympians."
Bach would also not be drawn on whether the Games would go ahead behind closed doors, something Tokyo organisers previously said was a line they would not cross.
"With regards to spectators you could make a decision at the very last moment but that's not realistic," he added.
"Everybody would love to have full stadia and roaring crowds but we will do whatever is needed to organise a safe Olympics."