Guinea has performed a dramatic U-turn by reversing its decision to withdraw from the Olympics hours before the Opening Ceremony.
A day after confirming its withdrawal from Tokyo 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Guinea has now agreed to send a team of five athletes to compete in the Games which are due to open today.
Guinean Minister of Sports Sanoussy Bantama Sow announced yesterday that the West African nation would not be taking part due to a “resurgence of COVID-19 variants”.
But following a national and international backlash, Sow made another announcement, confirming the team will be participating at the Games.
“The Minister of State, Minister of Sports has the true pleasure of informing the people of Guinea and the whole sports family, that the Government, after obtaining guarantees from the health authorities, agrees to the participation of our athletes in the 32nd Olympics in Tokyo,” Sow said in a statement.
It was reported that the initial decision to withdraw the team was down to financial restrictions, with a source close to the Government claiming “the Ministry cannot pay”.
But Ben Daouda Nassoko, secretary general for the National Olympic and Sports Committee Guinea, had told the Associated Press that funds had been made available for the delegation to travel to Tokyo.
Wrestler Fatoumata Yarie Camara, judoka Mamadou Samba Bah, swimmers Fatoumata Lamarana Toure and Mamadou Tahirou Bah and sprinter Aissata Deen Conte are due to compete for Guinea at Tokyo 2020.
Camara has spoken of her relief at the reversal in the decision.
“The question I ask myself is why has Guinea decided not to participate in the Olympic Games on the grounds of coronavirus when the organizing country like Japan hasn’t cancelled these Games because of this sickness,” she told the Associated Press.
“Why? That’s what I ask myself, and I still can’t find an answer.”
Guinea has competed in 11 Olympics since making its debut at Mexico City 1968, but has never won a medal.
At Rio 2016, Guinea sent a team of five athletes competing in three sports.
The last time Guinea did not participate in the Games was at Montreal 1976.
North Korea remains the only country to pull out of Tokyo 2020, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.