Tuesday’s confirmation of the 2020 Olympics being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic has left United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland heartbroken for athletes, despite the inevitability of the decision.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed the postponement to no “later than summer 2021” earlier on Tuesday following discussions between its president Thomas Bach, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Games organisers.
It will be the first time since the Second World War that the Olympics cannot go ahead as scheduled.
COVID-19 has impacted sport at all levels over the past month and for the foreseeable future, with UEFA last week taking the decision to push Euro 2020 back by 12 months to June 2021.
With the Olympics initially due to begin on July 24, it was deemed too close for comfort, and although Hirshland recognises the decision is the right one and not a surprise, she relayed her disappointment for the athletes.
My letter to Team USA athletes regarding the Tokyo 2020 Games postponement: https://t.co/INomOhkLsx
The excellence within Team USA is our resilience and how we overcome adversity. I have no doubt we will get through this together as a team, and all be better because of it.
— Sarah Hirshland (@USOPC_CEO) March 24, 2020
She wrote: “Team USA Athletes.
“Despite the feeling of eventuality that so many of us have felt in the lead up to this moment – my heart breaks for you, your fellow athletes around the world, our friends at Tokyo 2020, the people of Japan, and all who are impacted by this global pandemic and the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games 2020.
“We heard your concerns and we shared them. I thank you for being so forthcoming with your perspectives, and also for allowing us the time to hear from your team-mates across all sports before making a recommendation to the IOC.
“With this decision, the work of planning a new version of the Tokyo Games is now officially underway.
“At the same time, we know from you, it’s important that the process of ensuring it is a fair and equitable Games be given equal attention. Working in partnership with athletes, NGBs, International Federations, the IOC and IPC, we’ll (re)define standards for selection and anti-doping, and ensure the reimagined Games live up to the original promise of Tokyo 2020.
“This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life’s dream, but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do. Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely.
“I wish I had answers to every question out there, but the reality is this decision is unprecedented, and therefore, presents an entirely new process – for you, for the organisers, for the NGBs and for the USOPC. Please know we are committed to working with you in the coming days, weeks, and months to address them together.
“In the meantime, please focus on taking care of yourself and your community. If you need support or have questions, please come to us or your NGB or the Athlete Ombudsman. We are here to help. As a reminder, we have expanded our mental health services available to you during this time.
“The excellence within Team USA is our resilience and how we overcome adversity. I have no doubt we will get through this together as a team, and all be better because of it.
“I sincerely look forward to working with you as we once again plan our path to Tokyo. Wishing you all my very best and go Team USA!”
COVID-19 has been contracted by over 390,000 people since its emergence in the Hubei region of China late last year, with over 17,200 connected deaths.