Same time next year was the easiest decision that the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government and organizers had to make about postponing the Tokyo Games. Now their joint “Here We Go” task force has to work with all of the stakeholders — international federations, national Olympic committees, athletes, sponsors, media, and ticket-holders — who were counting on the 2020 Games being held in 2020.
The organizers don’t know how many venues still will be available a year hence since some have contracts for other events. Nearly 1,000 units in the Olympic village already have been sold as pricey condominiums. And the committee has to pay for an additional year of maintenance, office space, and salaries for 3,500 staffers, contributing to an estimated $6 billion in extra costs.
While the organizers, who’ve sold 5 million tickets, promise that they’ll honor them next summer or provide refunds to buyers who can’t attend then, it’s unclear whether the hotels that contracted for 46,000 rooms for the Olympic family will be compensated or whether they’ll have the beds available next year. Agreements with sponsors and TV networks, which are the IOC’s fiscal lifeblood, will need to be reworked.
“It is a massive undertaking to get back to fundamentals,” said Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director for the Olympics.
Move it along
Postponing the Games also has scrambled next year’s global calendar. The biennial world track and field championships, scheduled for Aug. 8-15 in Eugene, Ore., have been pushed forward to 2022 and the world aquatics championships, slated for July 16-Aug. 1 in Fukuoka, Japan, likely will be as well. The overwhelming number of sports that have their annual world events in the summer may well move them to the spring and have them serve as Olympic qualifiers … The coronavirus dealt a quadruple blow to Eugene (a.k.a. TrackTown USA), which has had one event canceled, two postponed, and one on hold after spending $200 million reconstructing iconic Hayward Field. The Pac-12 championships in May, which were to be the inaugural meet, were scrubbed. The annual Prefontaine Classic, a major international event scheduled for June, is questionable. That month’s Olympic trials likely will be pushed forward a year, and next year’s world championships, the first to be staged in the States, now will be in 2022 … The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, whose request for a $200 million bailout was rejected by Congress, is facing a cash crunch, as well. Most of its revenues, which come from sponsors, TV rights, and donors, directly support elite athletes preparing for the Games. USA Gymnastics already had declared bankruptcy in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, and USA Rugby recently followed. Three-quarters of the USOPC’s bailout request was meant for its national governing bodies since more than a dozen of them, such as badminton and canoeing, depend upon Colorado Springs for almost all of their funding.
While the IOC is only being fair to allow athletes and teams who’ve already qualified for the Games to keep their entries the decision means that in many of those cases, like quota spots for sports like rowing, the performances that earned those places will be two years old in 2021. It also means that athletes who likely would have qualified this spring, might not a year from now, which is one reason why the IOC has given the national Olympic committees the option of making roster changes. FIFA, the world soccer federation, has changed the age limit for the men’s tournament to 24 (with three exceptions) from 23. South Korea, which had requested the alteration, otherwise would have lost half of its roster.… The US, which will send 550 athletes to Tokyo, has named only 76 so far, most of them shooters, sailors, marathoners, and softball and table tennis players. Locals who’ve made the team include Boston marathoner Molly Seidel, Lynn boxer Rashida Ellis, Sherborn fencer Eli Dershwitz, and Boston University sailor Anna Weis. While the Americans already have qualified teams in men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, rugby sevens, volleyball, water polo, and women’s soccer and softball, they have yet to earn their tickets in men’s and women’s 3x3 basketball and men’s soccer and baseball. Those qualifiers, which were scheduled for last month, likely will be delayed a year. Athletes in sports that depend upon global rankings such as golf, tennis, beach volleyball, judo, triathlon, and weightlifting, are in limbo depending upon whether their international federations use the lists that were in place when the Olympics were postponed or extend them.
The year’s delay has created a dilemma for athletes such as Newton rower Gevvie Stone, who’d already taken a leave from her medical residency to try for her third Games, and for those such as gymnast Simone Biles, who’d planned on hanging up her leotard after Tokyo. “It’s a letdown,” said the four-time Olympic gold medalist, who’ll be 24 next year. “It’s hard to keep looking at that like, ‘We have another year.' I was ready after three months to be done. That’s a lot to take mentally.” … The Olympic postponement will benefit one group of people: dopers whose bans will expire before the new date. In track and field alone, they number more than 200. While the coronavirus restrictions on travel and social distancing that most countries have adopted also have halted testing for the foreseeable future, World Anti-Doping Agency president Witold Banka warns that “anti-doping never sleeps,” saying that the agency can use athletes’ biological passports, long-term analysis, intelligence, and investigations to uncover cheaters … Svetlana Khorkina, the former Russian gymnastics gold medalist, believes that the Olympic postponement is divine retribution for the doping crackdown on the Motherland. “They shouldn’t have offended Russia, including our athletes,” she said. “There is a reason why there is a line in our national anthem that says our land is protected by the Lord. I think this was God’s punishment.”
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.