Sports journalist Hannah Robbins discusses the impacts the delay of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has on Japan and Olympic athletes.
With the global coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics did the only thing they could: postpone the Olympics for a year. This is the first time in history that the Olympics has been postponed rather than cancelled, and with this decision, Olympic athletes’ fates will be forever changed.
From the torch relay that started in Greece without crowds and to its abrupt stopping in Fukushima where it will remain until 2021, every step of this year’s Olympiad has made one thing clear. The games will not be the same.
To get an idea of the delay’s impact on the Olympics, one has to think of it from all the different perspectives. The first is simple: Japan is going to lose approximately $6 billion from trying to keep the facilities Olympic ready until 2021. They have to deal with a global pandemic while also adjusting plans, figuring out timetables and hoping that introducing this many athletes and spectators won’t cause any more infectious diseases to spread. However, Japan will be using the Olympic Village for coronavirus patients, so maybe in these trying times they are benefiting from not having to build major hospitals or hospital boats from scratch.
Next up, we have the athletes themselves. The conditions necessary to get in Olympic shape are tough, to say the least, and while some athletes of certain sports can continue to train and earn income as usual, for others, it is simply too much. After the announcement, several athletes have retired early including British rower Tom Ransley, and others talk about the mental strain it puts on athletes. Keeping your body in top condition is a difficult task, and with the inability to train in some sports (gymnastics or rock climbing, anyone?), on some level all athletes are taking an unscheduled break. Will they be able to put their body back on track and get back to their condition in another year? For some, that might be too long.
Just like with the general population, athletes might not have the income they are used to during the pandemic. Most athletes earn money by competing in events that are now cancelled and sponsorships related to promotions they shoot and competitions they earn, which are no longer possible right now. Thankfully the International Swimming League will start paying swimmers in September until the Games, but that is one group of athletes out of many.
Neither of these points call into consideration the athletes that were in the process of qualifying for the games before their events were cancelled. It takes a perfect set of conditions to get to the Olympics, and some athletes will be competing and working for a goal they might not reach, or they might have reached in a universe without coronavirus. There is no way to turn back the clock, but for these athletes, their perfect season where they could have won may never be realized because next year will be a different year.