The head of the United States Swimming Federation urged the US Olympic and IOC Committee (USOPC) to push for a 12-month postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games, showing the First disagreement between powerful American institutions trying to manage American teams in the face of the unprecedented coronavirus crisis.
First Exec Tim Hinchey sent a letter Friday to his USOPC counterpart, Sarah Hirshland, requesting the postponement.
“They have all experienced unimaginable interruptions, just a few months after the Olympics, which casts doubt on the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” Hinchey wrote. “Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and well-being must be among the top priorities.”
Only a few hours earlier, USOPC leaders reiterated the IOC’s stance: While the safety of athletes was a priority, it was also too early to take drastic action.
They did not seem to want to cover the issue of postponement, one that is gaining more strength among athletes, Olympic leaders and now one of the most prominent national federations in the United States.
“The decision about the games does not rest directly with us,” said Susanne Lyons, president of the USOPC. “It falls under the World Health Organization, the Japanese government and the IOC. Under no circumstances would the USOPC send athletes in danger if it did not believe it was safe. “
The impact that USOPC’s voice could have as it moved toward a postponement was not said. In theory, no national Olympic federation has more power to alter the shape of an Olympiad than that of the US. The US, which brings 550 athletes and its $ 1 billion broadcaster, NBC, to the show every two years.
“We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and defend athletes,” Hinchey wrote.
Hirshland had no immediate reaction to the letter. Given the prior availability of the media, both she and Lyons reiterated much of what IOC President Thomas Bach had already said, whose most recent interview in The New York Times stated that plans are moving forward for the Tokyo Games, whether they start on July 24 or another time.
An increasing number of athletes want more decisive action from Olympic leaders: “The most irritating part of all this is that the IOC will do what they want, regardless of what the athletes think,” jumper Sandi Morris tweeted Thursday. at night.
But there is also a contingent of less vocal athletes who don’t speak as loudly on social media and “for whom this feels like their chance, their only chance,” Hirshland said.
“It adds to the complication factor” in making a decision, Hirshland said.
Han Xiao, chairman of the athletes’ advisory council, confirmed this and said that is why his group has not made definitive statements encouraging a postponement.
“We are specifically asking for more transparency around the decision-making process, more information on what measures and conditions are being discussed, and less public emphasis on training and ‘regular business’, which is putting athletes in a bad way. position, “Han said.
In fact, the training regimes of many athletes have disintegrated as gyms, pools, and communal training spaces across the country have been closed. The USOPC has closed its Olympic training centers to all but the 180 who live in them, and many of those groups have chosen to leave campus.
Hirshland said it should be clear to all elite and recreational athletes that “as Americans, health and safety must be the number one priority, not training.”
The USOPC has increased the availability of mental and emotional counseling, as anxiety about what comes next increases. About 190 of the 550 positions on the US team are slated to be delivered. For gymnastics, swimming and athletics, the Olympic events in June, which are in danger of being canceled.
Both Bach and the USOPC leadership have recognized the realities of a rating process that is altering beyond recognition. Hirshland says the federation is working with individual sports, both nationally and internationally, to adapt in case the Olympics take place without a traditional ranking structure.
“Our world-class swimmers are always ready to compete with anyone, anytime, anywhere. However, moving forward in the midst of the global health crisis this summer is not the answer,” says Hinchey.