Column: Will the 2021 Tokyo Olympics become the spring games?

Column: Will the 2021 Tokyo Olympics become the spring games?

Imagine a wonderful spring day in Tokyo.

The cold winter has melted. The summer humidity is still a few months. Maybe, just maybe, the famous cherry blossoms are still there, bathing the capital in vibrant colors.

Seems like a good time to have the Olympics, huh?

Now that the Tokyo Games are officially suspended until 2021, the next big problem that needs to be decided is when to reschedule this gigantic 2.5-week event.

“It’s a tricky question,” said American swimming star Ryan Murphy, who won three gold medals in Rio, on Wednesday. “There are so many factors.”

The International Olympic Committee has declared that the Games will be held in the summer of 2021 at the latest, which could simply mean putting them off at roughly the same place on the calendar as this year. The opening ceremony was set for July 24, but the plans were officially abandoned on Tuesday due to the global virus pandemic.

Although the postponement was an inconsistent and unprecedented decision, it could be the easiest appeal for the IOC.

The combinations in Lausanne will face a much more delicate problem in the coming weeks – setting precise dates for the organization of the Olympic Games so that everyone can start adjusting their plans.

Cornel Marculescu, who heads the mighty FINA, which oversees international water sports, said the IOC is considering two options: the normal mid-summer window and earlier spring dates, perhaps set right after the tournament Masters golf but before the French Tennis Open.

This could mean, for example, the opening ceremony on April 16, with the games running until May 2.

The different sports federations should favor a spring date as this would less disrupt the 2021 summer sports calendar, highlighted by the European men’s football championship and the world championships reprogrammed for two of the biggest Olympic sports: l and swimming.

If the Olympic Games are held earlier than usual, these events in Eugene, Oregon (athletics) and Fukuoka, Japan (swimming and other water sports) could remain in their current time slots.

But the biggest draw of the Spring Olympics is the weather.

Summers are hot in Tokyo, with temperatures climbing well in the Fahrenheit 90s (32 and over Celsius) accompanied by sweltering humidity. Concerns over the heat prompted the IOC to order the marathons and the running walks moved to the city of Sapporo in northern Japan, despite the anger of local organizers.

There have also been calls to move open water swimming out of Tokyo Bay due to the high water temperatures, although the IOC has insisted that no other sport will be moved.

If the Olympics were held in the spring, the marathon could return to Tokyo and there would be no concern about the humidity affecting athletes competing on outdoor venues. And the cooler temperatures would make things more pleasant for the more than one million fans expected.

However, the idea of ​​hosting the Olympic Games in the spring has many drawbacks.

“Think of all the sports you compete in at this time of year,” said Michael Phelps, who retired after the Rio 2016 Games as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. “You have these Olympic gung-ho fans who want to watch the game in the summer. What if grades drop because of a change they make? “

The Spring Olympics would fight American viewers against not only baseball, which had just opened its season, but the NHL and NBA playoffs. In addition, many national football leagues from around the world would be in the knockout of their seasons.

The sport that would be most affected by the Spring Olympics is basketball. Most NBA players would not be able to compete (except, perhaps, those whose teams did not make the playoffs) and it would be a brief turnaround from March Madness for many of the top college players male and female.

Taking into account the needs of the athletes – which, of course, should be the main goal, although this is rarely the case -, Phelps believes that the games should be rescheduled for the summer of 2021.

“I think this is the best way to do it,” he said. “Then the athletes actually have a full year to go back to the drawing board, figure out what to do between now and the trials. If you try to do it earlier, you are almost lost in limbo. “

Rick Burton, professor of sport management at Syracuse University, wonders if the Olympics could even be safely held next spring.

“It would be impressive to create a shoehorn as big as the Olympic Games in March or April and not to lose it on the world calendar of the 33 sports federations,” said Burton. “But it is certainly a dice to believe that people will be able to attend sporting events in a year and that athletes will be comfortable with each other in sports where there is physical contact. “

Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, who should be one of the favorites in Tokyo’s road cycling race, said he would be ready for the rescheduled Olympics – no matter when it might happen.

“The postponement of a year does not change my aspirations,” said the Italian pilot. “From now on, I can say that I will plan my preparation to arrive at the event in the best possible conditions.”

Congratulations again to the IOC for having cautiously called to postpone the matches.

Now comes the really difficult decision.

“I will be ready for the date they will name,” said Murphy. “I really hope the games can progress as we have always known.”

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