Thomas Bach, IOC President, announced Friday that all athletes who have formally qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for 2020, will keep their spots in the 2021 Games, “to respect the qualification process.” As an Olympian and GB Swim Team Captain, I believe this is to be heartily applauded. However…
According to the IOC, all the allocated quotas of athletes by sport for the 2021 Summer Games will remain unchanged. Due to cancellations or postponements of Olympic qualifying events around the world, only 57% of this anticipated final total athlete count were able to officially qualify before COVID-19 “took over” facilities, etc.
I suggest this raises a unique “Goodwill” opportunity for the official Olympic/Athlete sponsors, National Sports bodies and each country’s Olympic Committee (over 200).
While it would likely have to be “officially unofficial,” Olympic sponsors and the media should urge the National Sports bodies in cooperation with their Olympic Committees to name and specially recognize “2020 Olympians” for all sports, including each sport that has not been able to complete their Olympic qualification trial, events or team selection process for Tokyo 2020 due to COVID-19 circumstances beyond their control.
I understand that from the Organizers, venues in Japan and TV networks' perspective, the scheduling conflicts already facing the 2021 Tokyo date are serious. Major International Sports bodies with scheduled 2021 World Championships (Track & Field and Swimming) are saying they will cooperate with the IOC.
NBC is facing a revenue, expense, cash flow and program scheduling nightmare that will certainly be resolved between all parties, but at what cost? And what is the potential cost to some of the world’s top athletes?
As you would appreciate, some of the athletes who have not been able to officially qualify for Tokyo 2020 will tragically not make it for 2021 in their significantly delayed Olympic qualifying efforts. Even some of those athletes who have officially qualified may not ultimately be able to compete for various reasons. Therefore, their “Olympian” status may be at risk.
The underlying reasons for this essential goodwill “2020 Olympians” initiative encompass many dimensions facing both our qualified Olympians and our “Olympic Hopefuls,” which I am still familiar with. While stories of unbelievable training dedication in the worst possible situations abound with elite athletes, consider, in no particular order:
Stretching one’s “peculiar” life another year
Making ends meet
Missing another year of college
Continued sponsorship support and funding
National Team stipend
Coaching & training disruption for the next many months
Facility access and location affordability
Date of 2021 Summer Games (TBD)
Due to qualifying event postponements worldwide, those who have not been able to qualify for their Olympic Teams may well do so. I certainly hope these hopefuls will. However, some will not make it. Not to recognize 2020 Olympians across all sports is just not correct.
Performances in officially certified and recognized events over the last 6 months (depending on the sport) for those not officially qualified offer a solid means of announcing a full 2020 Olympic Team selection.
If this initiative is not embraced, some superb athletes will be robbed of the accolades and status they earned over many, many years of training, dedication and sacrifice, in addition to the respect and pride they should enjoy for the rest of their lives.
I urge the sponsors and the sporting world to support this initiative immediately and use your contacts and influence to make it happen via any avenues at the highest levels you can. It’s the right thing to do.
To purposely misquote a US Paralympian, David Brown, USA: “This is not a time to say there’s nothing we can really do.” He actually said, “ … nothing to race for!”