As countries grapple with the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, questions have swirled about the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo. With the July 24th Opening Ceremony looming, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that they’re exploring alternatives, and they have given themselves a deadline of four weeks to come to a final decision.
As of March 17, the IOC was “fully committed” to holding the Olympics as planned, explaining that “with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.” Now, five days later, they’ve changed their tune to consider alternatives, postponement being among them.
Currently, cancellation is not an option, according to the executive board, but a scaled-down version of the Games may be considered.
A timely, but watered down Olympic Games raises concerns among the equestrian community. As a sport that’s faced the IOC chopping block before, could eventing be cut out once and for all in 2020? And if it were, could it ever be brought back into the Olympic program?
The eventing portion of the Games is set to be held July 30-August 3, but athlete preparations remain up in the air. Competition has been suspended across nearly all of the United States, at least through mid-April, and the three final selection trials — Kentucky, Badminton, and Jersey Fresh — have all been canceled or postponed. The 2020 calendar remains fluid as the progression of COVID-19 changes day-by-day, with team announcements currently expected no later than June 1.
These theory crafters will no doubt face challenges over the next month as they decide the fate of the Games while balancing the interests of the International Federations and athletes from 33 different sports. In a message to athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach encouraged patience in the uncertainty and assured readers that safety continues to be the IOC’s highest priority.
“Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. The IOC wants to be part of the solution. Therefore we have made it our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved, and to contribute to containing the virus. I wish, and we all are working for this, that the hope so many athletes, NOCs and IFs from all five continents have expressed will be fulfilled: that at the end of this dark tunnel we are all going through together, not knowing how long it is, the Olympic flame will be a light at the end of this tunnel,” he said.