Bob Bowman, Frank Busch Back Postponement As 2021 Olympics Gains Ground

Jun 18, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Michael Phelps (USA) on left, and Bob Bowman head swimming coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils, answer questions during the morning press conference on day one of the Arena Pro Series at Santa Clara, at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara, Calif. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Robert Stanton/USA Today Sports Images

“If they did postpone it, it would take a lot of pressure off this situation right now,” – Bob Bowman

“In my very humble option, I really do feel the Olympics should be canceled,” – Frank Busch

The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic is looking increasingly likely. As athletes try to secure their short-term training and long-term health, moving the Games to 2021 would go a long way toward easing the pain, argues Associated Press columnist Paul Newberry.

It isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, with the only three Olympic postponements in history (1916, 1940 and 1944) occurring due to world wars. But with athletes facing the same fears as anyone else in light of the deadly COVID-19 on top of attempting to maintain elite training and scrape together already perilous financial livings as athletes, moving the games would help relieve stress.

“If they did postpone it, it would take a lot of pressure off this situation right now,” swimming coach Bob Bowman told the AP. “People are scrambling. Most people are not training. If we had a little more time to get ready, that would probably be a good thing.”

Frank Busch took a similar stance in a conversation with tuscon.com.

“In my very humble option, I really do feel the Olympics should be canceled,” Busch, USA Swimming’s National Team director at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, told columnist Greg Hansen. “And I think the USOC should be the leader on that.”

The IOC has tried to put off a decision on the 2020 Olympics, set to start July 24, trying not to make “any drastic decisions” in light of the monumental investment in the event made by Japan. But with a pair of international soccer tournaments, the European Championships and Copa America, being postponed until 2021, there is precedent for the switch.

“We are in solidarity with the whole of society to do everything to contain the virus,” the IOC said in a statement Tuesday following meetings. “The situation around the COVID-19 virus is also impacting the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and is changing day by day.”

The challenge is particularly pronounced in a sport like swimming, where intensive training is required to even qualify for the Games. A decision on the 2020 Olympics would ripple through each country’s various qualification meets, almost all of which have been postponed or cancelled. With delicate training schedules sketched out months or years in advance, the idea that a passable Olympics could be held at a moment’s notice is tough to swallow.

“This is the time when you’re hoping to see progression from one meet to the next, something that’s closer to the final product,” Bowman said. “You’re kind of testing some things like race strategy. You want to see these little rehearsals for the big show. … It’s probably more important than the training, to be honest. That’s what makes the training so meaningful, when you’re able to learn something at the last meet and then go work on it.”

Busch understands the appeal of an Olympics in 2021, particularly given the training disruptions for swimmers who are battling to keep themselves safe from a deadly virus much less find places to train at their peak.

“It just seems to me we’re putting so much pressure on the athletes, coaches and facilities,” Busch said. “I don’t see any leadership here in any way, shape or form. Given the health issues before us, the Olympics are such a small thing in the world right now.”

Extraordinary Events In Swimming History:

Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil and Japan have all had major meets affected by the coronavirus pandemic, while in the United States, the NCAA Championships have been cancelled and USA Swimming has imposed a 30-day suspension on all events, while Canada is considering what to do about its Olympic trials early next month. In Italy, where swimmers are struggling to maintain normal routines, can’t get to practice and in some cases find pool time, a #stopolympics campaign was launched by the Nuoto website calling on solidarity among swimming nations to recognise that Olympic preparations have been blown off course and that it would be in the interests of fairness to postpone the Games for a time of calm beyond the coronavirus crisis. 

Our coverage:

Guidance on Water and Coronavirus 

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5 comments

  1. Rob Richardson

    USOC needs to take the lead and postpone Trials – seriously what is the IOC waiting to decide? There is no way that any sport or the world will be ready in July – except maybe open water swimming ?!

  2. avatar
    David Abineri

    Let’s change the 2021 World Championships to the Olympic Games. Track and Field could do the same thing. This would allow athletes to plan and prepare properly assuming the virus crisis passes.

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