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Finding a new Olympic date for 2021 – as difficult as winning gold

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The unprecedented move of postponing Tokyo 2020 to 2021 has created a major dilemma.

BERLIN – The Olympics have a preferred slot within the blown up international sports calendar.

But the unprecedented move of postponing Tokyo 2020 to 2021 has created a major dilemma, with various options explored and sports federations likely having to be flexible to accommodate the biggest sports event on the planet.

Following are key aspects on the challenging issue:

WHEN ARE THE OLYMPICS NORMALLY HELD?

While some of the early Olympics took place over several months, the Games are now held over 16 days and in a preferred July/August slot. But in the past Melbourne 1956 was held November 22-December 8, Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968 in October, and Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000 in the last two weeks of September, mainly for climate reasons.

WHY THE JULY/AUGUST SLOT?

Football is in its pre-season and just restarting, other sport in a summer break, and apart from baseball all major US Sports also in the off- or pre-season, which is important for broadcaster NBC who have spent some 12 billion dollars overall for the Olympic broadcast rights between 2014 and 2032. The Olympics get maximum exposure at this time of the year.

WHEN DOES THE IOC WANT TO HOLD THE GAMES IN 2021?

The original dates for 2020 were July 24-August 9. This would correspond with July 23-August 8 next year. IOC president Thomas Bach has said “we want to organize these Olympic Games at the latest in summer 2021” and that deliberations are “not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table before or during the summer 2021.” But IOC co-ordination committee chair John Coates has reportedly said the preferred date would be between the Wimbledon (ends July 11) and US Open (starts August 30) tennis grand slams.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER DATES?

Thomas Weikert, head of the ruling table tennis body, has told dpa “we would suggest April or earlier.” That is no surprise because his sports’ worlds are set for June 17-26 which would be very close to the regular Olympic slot. Such a date in spring would however make conditions for athletes easier as opposed to the heat and humidity in July and August. But spring also marks the culmination of the NBA and NHL seasons, and in many European sports leagues led by football with domestic and continental club competitions. European handball chief Michael Wiederer warned that “placing the Olympic Games in the middle of the season will dramatically effect all the competitions” and have a negative impact “even, in the Olympic Games, on handball itself.” A spring date would likely also give the Olympics far less exposure and would force a major reshuffle of the already currently badly affected sports calendar in order to have top athletes at the Games.

WHAT DOES THE MOVE TO 2021 MEAN IN GENERAL FOR THE CALENDAR?

Non-Olympic years traditionally see world championships in many of the 33 Olympic summer sports. This means that athletes would have two season highlights in 2021, a scenario not really preferred. The Olympics would also take away the attraction of the various sports’ worlds. The IOC and the 33 federations had a conference call on Thursday, with Weikert speaking of “a good discussion” but that details would not be released.

AND A JULY 23-AUGUST 8 SLOT IN PARTICULAR?

Directly affected would be the two major Olympic sports of swimming and athletics, with the aquatics worlds set for July 16-August 1, also in Japan (Fukuoka), and the athletics worlds in Eugene, Oregon, set for August 6-15. BMX cycling and taekwondo also have their worlds in that period, while others like table tennis (June 17-26), rowing (September 26-October 3) and road cycling (September 18-26) shortly before or after. In addition, cycling’s Tour de France is currently scheduled for July 2-25, and would also have to be brought forward.

HOW CAN THIS DILEMMA BE SOLVED?

World Athletics has said Eugene organizers are ready for any scenario to solve the conundrum, “including dates in 2022.” Aquatic’s FINA has reportedly ruled out moving its event by a year but is ready to make a 2021 switch, no easy task given that many countries led by the United States will also have Olympic trials. Other sports with biannual worlds may also move within 2021 or even to 2022, which is a big task for any organizer and ruling body. But sports federations are also expected to be flexible on moving dates because many of them depend in a major way on the millions of dollars all summer and winter Olympic sports receive from the IOC. | dpa