Martin Jahns

Athletes, Qualification, Debates About Postponement

Olympics in Tokyo: Still One Year to Go to the Games

On 24 July 2020 the Olympic Games in Tokyo would have started as planned. But Corona thwarted the sports spectacle. What does this mean for the athletes? Is the 2021 date also in danger? And what would that mean for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing? answers the most important questions.

The Olympic rings in front of the new National Stadium in Tokyo - one of the sports venues of the Olympic Games.
The Tokyo Summer Games were originally scheduled to start on 24 July 2020.

The big party is cancelled for the time being. Actually, July 24, 2020 should have been a celebration day for Tokyo. That's when the Summer Olympics were to open with a huge ceremony. Instead, athletes, fans and the IOC will have to wait another 364 days before the games, which have been postponed due to Covid-19, are supposed to start on July 23, 2021. But now even this date may be in danger. answers the most important questions about the postponed Tokyo games.

What does the postponement mean for athletes?

Many athletes have spent years preparing for the 2020 Olympics - only to lose sight of the big goal by the postponement. For many this means not only financial losses due to partners and sponsors breaking away, but above all a mental hole. "It is a difficult situation, especially since the entire competition season has been cancelled. But we always set ourselves new little goals in training," said Marcus Schwarzrock, national coach of the double-four rowers on NDR.

For some stars like Simone Biles, the Olympic postponement means an involuntary further year as an athlete: she planned to end her career after the 2020 Games. Now she is hanging on for another year to make herself the most successful gymnast in Olympic history in 2021.

Especially for youngsters, however, the Olympic postponement is a chance. The 19-year-old skateboarder Lenni Janssen from Germany, for example, hopes that another year of preparation will increase his chances of catching up with the skating world elite and thus solve his ticket to Tokyo.

How many athletes are already qualified?

Janssen's chances are not too bad, because the qualifying tournaments for the skater field in Tokyo are still to come. So far, according to the IOC, only 57 percent of all athletes have qualified for the 2021 Olympic Games. What exactly the modalities for qualifying for the remaining athletes will look like is perhaps the biggest bone of contention within the IOC. After all, restrictions on travel and training impair fair competition.

The US weightlifters recently hosted a particularly creative qualification tournament: 115 athletes foughts for their spot in the US squad for Tokyo in a virtual tournament via video conferencing.

Are the 2021 Games even safe?

From 23 July to 8 August 2021, the Tokyo Summer Games are scheduled to take place. But the IOC is facing a dilemma: Olympics without spectators in the arenas have been ruled out by IOC President Thomas Bach. But nobody can predict to what extent Covid-19 will still be in control of the world next year.

"We do not know what the situation will be like in a year's time", said IOC President Thomas Bach. The IOC is already working on "a variety of scenarios" for the Tokyo Games in accordance to the World Health Organization.

And the 2021 date is also controversial among the inhabitants of Tokyo. At the end of June, polls showed that 51.7 percent of Tokyo residents were in favour of postponing the games again or cancelling them completely.

Would there be consequences for the Winter Games 2022 in Beijing?

The IOC last ruled out the possibility of rescheduling the 2021 Summer Games. But in the meantime there are increasing voices within the IOC's own ranks, according to which Beijing, the host of the 2022 Winter Games, will have to adjust to any changes. „To get to the point where Beijing may have to decide in 2022 that they can't do it, they are also thinking about what other options they have," IOC member Richard Pound told AFP news agency.

However, the Organising Committee of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games does not expect any postponement: "As far as we know, the position of the IOC is clear and unchanged," it announced. "Beijing 2022 is currently implementing tight controls on Corona and is pushing ahead with preparations for the Games as planned." By the end of this year, all the venues for the Winter Olympics 2022 should be ready.

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Martin Jahns
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