Here’s something the whole sports world can stand up and cheer: The Summer Olympics, featuring American swimmer Katie Ledecky and Serbian center Nikola Jokic, among more than 11,000 athletes proudly representing 205 countries.
Yes, the Summer Olympics can happen. I truly believe we will see the flame lit in Tokyo.
But not this year. Please, in the name of a sane response to the coronavirus, don’t let the Games be held in 2020. The Olympics need to stand down and let medical experts tackle a pandemic that has already killed more than 11,500 people around a frightened globe.
Postpone the Summer Olympics. Do it now.
Any notion athletes should jump in the pool or run around the track four months hence, all for the benefit of the International Olympic Committee’s greed, seems to be pure folly, not to mention socially irresponsible.
In the name of fair competition, but far more crucial, for the sake of the world’s health, I humbly suggest the Summer Games in Tokyo be postponed exactly one year, to start July 24, 2021.
While I’d like to take credit for this idea, let me instead offer a fist bump (from the appropriate social distance, of course) to USA Swimming president Tim Hinchey. He took the bold step Friday of sending a strongly worded letter to our country’s Olympic leadership, imploring the postponement of the competition in Japan.
“Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into the question the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” wrote Hinchey, who served six years as president of the Colorado Rapids before taking his current gig in 2017.
“There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021.”
The coronavirus is scary. But to deal with it, what most of us want is straight talk. Hinchey not only told us the bad news the Games need to hear, he gave us a concrete goal to pursue while dreaming of better days ahead.
Meanwhile, U.S. Olympic Committee honchos mouth poppycock, hoping against hope the Games can somehow go on, while commissioners of the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have wisely decided on an indefinite suspension of play.
“The decision about the Games does not lie with us,” said USOC chairperson Susanne Lyons, passing the buck to everyone from the World Health Organization to the Japanese government. “But we would not send our athletes into harm’s way if we do not believe it’s safe.”
Well, a magic wand isn’t going to make the coronavirus disappear, no matter how much we wish to see gymnast Simone Biles defy gravity in Tokyo. So why delay the decision? Here’s a clue: Lyons’ background is in marketing, not medical research, where experts in infectious disease have warned of a second major bump in cases of the coronavirus, even if we can tap down its spread during the coming weeks.
Hey, I get it. This is America, home of the almighty dollar. Money makes the five rings of the Olympic circus go round. NBC paid $1.45 billion to secure broadcast rights fees for the 2020 Summer Games. It’s tough for anyone to walk away from that kind of moola.
But whether you’re a fat cat from NBC or the IOC, try crying poor to the bartender and hotel maid fired as this pandemic rages on.
While we’re all hunkered down from Denver to Milan in isolation, watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” with a fresh appreciation for the title, while praying the coronavirus won’t kill somebody we love, there’s a sense of purpose powerful enough to unite the world against this pandemic.
At the same time, please forgive me for confessing to moments of weakness. I’ve got a hankering to walk into a restaurant, order a Manhattan and tell the kitchen I like my lamb chops cooked medium rare. How many times can a proud man lose Connect Four to his spouse without going stir-crazy?
Yes, we know the right thing to do is to stay inside. But this steady drip, drip, drip of boredom and ambiguity can be maddening for us all.
When will we be able to go out and play, attend a concert or take the family out to the ballgame again?
Weightlifters and wrestlers who sweated and sacrificed to compete in the Tokyo Games for much of their lives must deal with the same uncertainty. Denver native Adeline Gray is a 29-year-old wrestler who has won five world championships but wants one more shot at Olympic gold that has eluded her.
“The ambiguity is a real cause for significant anxiety,” said Sarah Hirshland, chief executive officer of the USOC. “These are athletes who do this (train) for their only chance … or last chance.”
In this time of the coronavirus, all any of us want is a fighting chance to win.
Postpone the Games until 2021. The promise of the Olympic flame will give athletes and fans alike something to happily anticipate, while we all fight bigger battles now.