USA Track and Field Calls for Postponing 2020 Olympics to Unspecified Date

March 21, 2020

A day after USA Swimming called for the Olympics to be postponed “by one year,” USA Track & Field (USATF) called for the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to advocate for postponing the Olympics, but did not give a specific date as to when they should be held.

Much like USA Swimming’s letter, USATF’s letter to USOPC focused on postponing the Olympics because it felt its athletes could not properly and safely prepare for them:

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“Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limits in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train is a safe and adequate environment, and replicate the excellence we have all come to expect, does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis. As we have learned, our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness is among our highest priorities.”

The USATF request acknowledged this was a “difficult decision” but said it was made because “this position at least provides our athletes with the comfort of knowing they will have adequate time to properly prepare themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally to be able to participate in a safe and successful Olympic Games and they can shift their focus toward taking care of themselves and their families.”

Full statement in tweet below:

Full USA Swimming statement here.

LRC Opinion: We want the Olympics to be held when they can be held safely. The safety of hosting the Olympics should be the #1 priority, not whether US athletes can “replicate the excellence we have all come to expect.” Both USA Swimming and USATF’s appeals to postpone the Games focused on the disruptions the coronavirus has had on their athletes’ preparations. Their reasoning for postponement seems to be more out of concern that their athletes won’t be in shape in July and August rather than concern that the Olympics, as a massive global sporting event, has the potential to spread the disease. Other pro sports in the world will hopefully resume at some point this year and athletes will likely compete having had less than ideal preparations.

The biggest argument for postponing the Games immediately is that, with the Olympics still currently scheduled to be held four months from now, some athletes may choose to ignore government guidelines and risk infecting themselves and others in order to prepare as best as possible. Athletes need to be taking this very seriously and if they are putting their training over the well-being of society that is irresponsible and selfish and their fault, no one else’s. 

Generally we are against people cancelling events four months out, especially when the hosts say they are taking this very seriously and will only host them if they can do so safely. Having said that, the Olympics are truly a unique global event in that they are only held once every four years, so there is more flexibility on when they can be held and factoring athlete preparations makes sense. Thus we are not against the IOC saying the Olympics will be postponed to an indefinite date, but have no problem holding them later this year if they can be done so safely.

*Discuss the postponement in this thread

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