by Sarah Cook, Editor-in-Chief
As of Tuesday, March 24, Japan’s Prime Minister and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to 2021 due to the current global health crisis. Not only does this affect athletes, but it hurts the tourism and media industries, and this postponement represents the first time since World War II the Olympics have been disrupted, according to NBC News.
Initially, the games were set to start on July 24, and Japanese officials insisted the games would go as planned for many weeks, as concerns of COVID-19 spread rapidly across the globe. According to NBC News, now the games are set to start on July 23, 2021, and the Paralympics will begin on Aug. 24, 2021.
Despite the overwhelming spread of COVID-19, it took the Japanese government and the IOC weeks to decide on this, mainly due to economic implications. The games were expected to be the largest yet with over 11,000 athletes, and tourism companies were hoping to bring in over $2 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The economic concerns were also related to the media’s investment in the Olympics. According to the Wall Street Journal, NBC Universal and Discovery Inc. invested a combined $1 billion to show the games, so this hurts their profits, schedule and also advertising plans.
Junior Gretchen Walsh, senior Alex Walsh, and senior Alex Massey were all planning on attending the Olympic trials for swimming this summer in Omaha, Nebraska and hopefully the Olympics in Tokyo. However, in recent weeks, their pools began closing due to growing concerns of COVID-19.
“Ours got closed a lot later than most people’s, so I felt lucky we were training, but I knew if we were going to have Olympic trials and Olympics, it wouldn’t have been fair because people would be at such different spots in their training,” Gretchen Walsh said.
Many athletic organizations and participating nations recognized this unfairness, in addition to the clear health concerns, as reason to pressure the IOC into making a decision. The Canadian Olympic Committee announced they would not send a team to Tokyo, according to the LA Times. Within the US, USA Swimming called for postponement in order to level the playing field among athletes losing access to training and protect the mental health and wellness of athletes, coaches, and staff in their letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
With the surmounting pressure, the Olympics were postponed “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community” according to a joint statement by the IOC and organizers in Tokyo.
Ultimately, despite its effect on the economy, moving the games has a profound difference in athletes’ training and mindsets. While they were all three Harpeth Hall Olympic hopefuls looking forward to possibly attending the Olympics, all three swimmers see this as an opportunity for growth.
“It makes sense because they want everyone to be safe, but it’s a little heartbreaking that you’re expecting to put all this work into this summer, but it also means more time to train and get better,” Alex Massey said.
“Even though it’s been postponed, we’re still thinking about it, and our pool is closed, but we’re still working out a lot and finding other ways to stay in shape that correspond to what we do in the pool,” Alex Walsh said, “Having this year is almost like a blessing and we need to remember it and take advantage of it”
As with many other changes to major events, the postponement of the Olympics will have widespread effects throughout the world. Not only will it hurt the economy, but it also forces athletes to change their training schedule and style, along with their mindsets.