Guyana suspends API track meet amid COVID-19 pandemic

Guyana’s premier international track and field competition, the Aliann Pompey Invitational (API), has been suspended pending the announcement of the new date for the Olympics.

The fifth edition of the meet, a gateway to the Olympics for athletes, had been scheduled for June 6 at the National Track and Field Centre in Leonora, West Coast Demerara.

But earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it would postpone the Summer Games originally scheduled to begin in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, to a date “beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021” because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This year’s meet had been scheduled for June 6 at the National Track and Field Centre in Leonora, West Coast Demerara.

“Given the fact that this year’s API forms part of the World Athletics Continental Tour for the calendar year and is a major part of the preparation for athletes looking to qualify for Tokyo 2020, we want to ensure that the event offers athletes from around the world the best possible way, without hindrance, a chance to make their Olympic dream true,” a statement on Thursday from the API said.

“The IOC announced the postponement of the Games to take place no later than a year from the scheduled date, and, as such, API wants to leave the door open to the possibility of having the meet, should the Games be held sometime sooner than next summer.”

However, it added that it would follow the lead of World Athletics, CONSUDATLE, National Sports Commissions (NSC) and the Athletics Association of Guyana (AAG), and “adhere to the requirements and recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as regional and local health officials; joining the rest of the sporting world battling the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic”.

Guyana’s most prolific female athlete Aliann Pompey, after whom the track and field meet is named, told local media house News Room that she agreed with the postponement of the Olympic Games.

“I genuinely believe the decision to postpone the Olympics to a later date was the best one. I think it’s the one that has the least amount of repercussions. Having it at the scheduled date puts so many of the athletes and their families and the world at large at risk,” said the former national 400m athlete and four-time Olympian.

Several other major regional and international sporting events have been postponed or cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the CARIFTA Games.