News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:
● Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The International Olympic Committee’s task force on the format of the 2021 Games in Tokyo is reported to be looking “to arrange a July-August window for the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and hopes to confirm the schedule within a month” according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The “Here We Go” working group, formed from the IOC’s Coordination Commission, has to figure a way to schedule the Games that works as well as is possible with the existing annual sports calendar, and with the 33 International Federations which hold their major events during the summer. The World Championships in Aquatics (16 July-1 August in Fukuoka, Japan) and Athletics (6-15 August in Eugene, Oregon) are clearly in conflict and would have to be moved.
There is talk of holding the Games earlier, in part to avoid the hot summer weather that had been the biggest concern prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The head of the IOC’s task force, John Coates (AUS) has said that he hopes the dates for the 2021 Games can be fixed by mid-April.
● Tokyo 2020: Vox Populi ● The two-time World Cross Country Champion and former American record holder in the 10,000 m, Craig Virgin doesn’t want to wait until 2021 for the Games. He writes to TSX:
“As a three-time U.S. Olympian in T&F/Athletics …. I was happy to learn that the IOC and Tokyo 2020 had finally come to their senses and decided to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games that were slated to open in late July.
“Then, I was chagrined to learn that the IOC and Tokyo 2020 had not considered simply moving them back to October and giving us just 2-to-3 months more to try to get this coronavirus pandemic under control in the next 4-to-8 weeks and our life back to ‘normal.’ That way the Tokyo 2020 Games might still be held in 2020!
“Incidentally, the Tokyo Olympic Games of 1964 had their opening ceremonies on October 10 and their closing ceremonies on October 24. So, a precedent to set them later in the fall (with its much better weather in Tokyo) has already been set in the past at the same exact city location!
“The IOC could even set a review date of July 1 to see whether the coronavirus pandemic was under control enough and that athletes could satisfactorily train as well as travel as needed for both training and competition. Not to mention the media and spectators! Then, if not, they could push the games back into 2021. But, I would argue that if we are still dealing with the coronavirus as a serious threat in June then the Olympics will be far less important as the whole world struggles to either survive the health threat or the economic threat. Both could be deadly!
“I try to be optimistic and hope that the better weather and higher temperatures of late April and May in combination with the emergency scientific and medical efforts now underway around the globe… could help us bring this pandemic well under control before July 1.
“When I first heard that the IOC did not even list this conservative step as one possibility right away then I thought ‘why not?’ So, I got an idea and looked up the present value of the last year of the NBC contract with the IOC … and the increased value of the extension that was just signed in the past year or so… and I knew probably knew why!
“I believe that NBC might be more concerned about avoiding a broadcast schedule conflict with MLB playoffs, NCAA football, and NFL football… than doing what is the right thing for the Olympic Games and the Olympic athletes. Admittedly, this just a ‘guess’ on my part but as the famous line in the movie ‘Jerry McGuire’ says… ‘follow the money… fool!’ … and he is generally right about that!
“For all kinds of logistical and athletic reasons I implore the IOC to strongly consider the historically appropriate option of trying to hold the 2020 Games at Tokyo in October FIRST… then in 2021 ONLY if absolutely necessary. Thank you!”
Comment: Craig is not the only one who feels this way; USA Weightlifting chief Phil Andrews (GBR) also prefers a late-2020 date. But it’s not going to happen. There is no assurance that the coronavirus situation is going to improve enough worldwide to allow athletes to train for the Games and if we learned one thing from this experience (so far) is that those competitors who are contenders for medals want no impediments to their success from any factors they cannot control. Although already well recognized, the wringing of hands and tearing of hair over about a week’s time when the IOC and Japan came to the conclusion that the Games had to be postponed showed again the razor’s edge on which elite athletes exist.
There is also widespread concern about the reduced scope of anti-doping activities in this period due to the social-distancing requirements of fighting COVID-19. In order to ensure a robust pre-Games anti-doping effort is made for Tokyo, it must be moved well into 2021.
What about those who purchased tickets for the 2020 Games? In the U.S., ticket buyers received a message on Wednesday from Robert Long, head of CoSport, the authorized ticket retailer of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee:
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo Organizing Committee and Japanese Government have officially postponed the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games until 2021, with specific dates still to be determined but held no later than the summer of 2021, due to concern for the wellbeing of spectators, athletes and supporters in light of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19.
“We know there are questions surrounding such an unprecedented move and want you to know that CoSport Tokyo 2020 purchases will be honored at the Games in 2021, and we continue to work in support of our customers in addressing issues.
“With next year’s dates not yet determined, we are in communication with the IOC, Tokyo Organizing Committee and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee to plan and follow new processes with regard to spectator purchases, which will take some weeks to develop.
“As we work to address those issues, we appreciate the patience of all who share in CoSport’s belief that the Olympic and Paralympic spectator experience is integral to the Tokyo Games, no matter the year or obstacles overcome, a mission we have delivered for the past 10 Olympic Games.
“When the new Tokyo dates are determined and those processes can be implemented, we will be back in touch regarding 2021, as well as share information at CoSport.com/update/.
“Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in Tokyo next year.”
● Boxing ● The BBC reported today (Thursday) that six individuals who attended the truncated Olympic qualifying event in London (GBR) from 14-16 March have contracted COVID-19.
The Croatian Boxing Federation reported an athlete and two coaches, and the Turkish federation claims that two fighters and a coach tested positive on their return from the event, cut short due to the spread of the virus.
Turkish Boxing Federation president Eyup Gozgec sent a letter to the European Boxing Confederation that included: “This is the disastrous result of the irresponsibility of the IOC Boxing Task Force.”
He told the BBC, “The organisers were irresponsible, and I think they didn’t realise the severity of the issue so they just didn’t care. They just didn’t take this outbreak seriously and they didn’t care about it. They did no tests for us. They just told us to go. They dropped us at the airport and that was it.
“They knew they were going to have to cancel – why go with it? The health of our athletes and staff is our priority.”
The IOC’s statement to the BBC noted:
“The BTF wants to express its sympathy for the affected athletes and officials and wishes them a very speedy and full recovery.
“The BTF is not aware of any link between the competition and the infection.
“Many participants were in independently organised training camps… before the competition started… and have returned home a while ago so it is not possible to know the source of infection.”
The London organizers of the tournament stated that they provided “extra measures” for the health of the teams “which included the provision of hand sanitisers throughout the competition spaces and routine temperature tests which enabled the medical team to track and identify any underlying changes during competition.”
● At the BuZZer ● Even with all of our troubles in the present, some are planning for a new future. One of them is 2018 Olympic Champion Stina Nilsson (SWE), who won the Cross Country Sprint gold in PyeongChang.
But at 26, and after seven years as a star in Cross Country – with 23 World Cup wins – she is changing sports and taking up Biathlon. “My basic idea was to run Cross-Country skiing for another Olympics and then change after the season 2022. But because of my [stress fracture in 2019] I have been given a lot of time to think and test shoot and I feel that I really do not want to wait any longer.
“I am humbled by the biathlon challenges, where I believe that the routine of the rifle and learning all about the weapon, such as when and how to screw, will be the biggest challenge, but they are a challenge I look forward to. I just get to practice ‘a little’ extra on it.”