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EDITORIAL: Postponing 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics is only rational choice

York Dispatch
  • The 2020 Summer Olympic Games were planned for Tokyo.
  • It's been decided that those games will be postponed until 2021.
  • Several York County athletes were considered serious contenders for Olympic berths.
  • Among the area athletes with Olympic hopes were Hali Flickinger and Trinity Thomas.
Spring Grove's Hali Flickinger is shown swimming in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Flickinger had been considered a major contender to earn a berth on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. The 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, however, almost certainly will be postponed.

The International Olympic Committee no longer has a choice.

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Games have been postponed.

That need became apparent to everyone over the past week.

The IOC all but admitted the 2020 Tokyo Games wouldn’t happen on Sunday when it said it was considering a postponement and would make a final decision within four weeks.

Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed until 2021 because of coronavirus pandemic

Well, that decision came a whole lot faster than four weeks. Tuesday, the IOC made the postponement decision after speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers.

The IOC said the games will be held “not later than summer 2021” but they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

That was the only rational call.

There’s really no hope that the global situation will improve enough in the next month to justify putting the health and safety of thousands — maybe millions — of people in jeopardy.

A postponement is unprecedented. The Olympic Games have never been postponed during peacetime, although the Olympic Games were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 because of the world wars. A number of games have also been boycotted by various nations for various reasons over the years.

Postponement inevitable: The 2020 postponement has been inevitable for at least a week.

The calls for a postponement have been pouring in from all quarters of the Olympic movement — athletes, sponsors, broadcasters and more than 200 national Olympic committees and international sports federations.

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Obviously, it’s not a decision that anyone is happy about, but the IOC hand has now been forced by an international pandemic that has no regard for shattered schedules, financial fallout or dashed dreams.

The coronavirus outbreak is an equal opportunity menace.

Now, the best we can hope for is that the Summer Games can go on in 2021, and even that is far from certain. Many projections show the coronavirus pandemic lasting for 18 months — possibly longer.

Postponement costs: Postponing an event as enormous as the Summer Olympics is not something that can be done impetuously.

There’s simply too much at stake.

Postponement will be a devastating blow to Japan’s economy, which is already reeling from the pandemic. Business sponsors and partners around the world will also suffer, many located here in the United States, which is the world's biggest financial supporter of the Olympic movement.

Logistically, rescheduling the Tokyo Games will be a nightmare, especially with so much uncertainty about what the next 18 months may bring. Typically, a host city gets a decade to prepare for the gargantuan task of hosting the games. Now, under a best-case scenario, Tokyo officials will likely have 16 months to figure out a daunting rescheduling process.

Finally, and most importantly, postponing the games will be a crushing setback for the thousands of athletes who have been training all their lives for a chance to enjoy the Olympic experience and possibly have the opportunity to win a medal.

Trinity Thomas is shown here competing earlier this month at Penn State. Thomas is a member of the U.S. Senior National Gymnastics Team and had been considered a serious contender to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. The 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, however, will almost certainly now be postponed.

Local impact: There are a number of York County athletes who had been considered serious Olympic hopefuls — most notably swimmer Hali Flickinger, a former Olympian, and gymnast Trinity Thomas.

Trinity Thomas using time off to rest, recharge and prepare (hopefully) for Olympic Trials

Spring Grove grad Hali Flickinger is world No. 1 in butterfly after finding passion again

Now, their dreams have been delayed by at least a year.

A year may not sound like much to most of us, but to a young athlete, much can happen in 12 months. Injuries could occur, the aging process will continue and financial pressures could mount.

There are no guarantees for Flickinger, Thomas or any other Olympic hopeful. It's impossible not to feel disappointed for all of the 2020 Olympic hopefuls.

Still, despite the many hardships that will flow out of the postponement decision, there was no real choice anymore.

The Tokyo Summer Games won’t be held in 2020. That was absolutely the right call.

Unfortunately, there's no guarantee about 2021, either.