The Olympics are going to have to get creative if they are going to go off as planned in 2021.
USA Swimming announced an adjustment Tuesday, saying that the United States’ Olympic Swimming Trials will be split into two events. Rather than holding one event with every Olympic hopeful, one group of swimmers will compete from June 4-7 for a chance to compete in the decisive event from June 13-20.
“Following the extraordinary events of the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Swimming developed a revised plan to conduct Trials in a safer and healthier environment for the competitors and everyone involved,” said the statement, which noted the decision was made in partnership with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee as well as the Omaha Sports Commission.
“We undertook a thorough and methodical evaluation of the Trials over the last several months and factored in several critical considerations in our decision,” USA Swimming chief operating officer Mike Unger said. “Our number one priority was to find a way to host Trials in the safest possible environment while also giving the athletes the best opportunity to succeed. While selecting the Olympic Team for Tokyo is a critical goal for the Trials, it is important to note that the experience gained at Trials by some of the lower seeded athletes has historically provided a great experience for future Olympic Trials (and Games), which fueled our desire to host two events.”
More than 1,700 swimmers competed at the 2016 trials in Omaha, according to Sports Illustrated. Between Nov. 28, 2018 and Jan. 20, 2021, 1,305 athletes had qualified for the 2021 Olympic Trials at CHI Health Center Omaha. USA Swimming looked back at data from 2000-2016 to adjust qualifying times in a way that’s expected to yield about 550-650 swimmers in Wave I and 750 in Wave II.
Athletes who qualified under the original standards will compete in Wave I from June 4-7. If they finish first or second in their event, they will advance to Wave II from June 13-20. The swimmers who make it through Wave II will qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which were postponed from last year until July 23 through August 8, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s some concern that it will be the first Olympics completely called off since 1944. Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee this week denied a The Times of London report that the Olympics were in danger of being canceled a year after they were postponed.
"Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be canceled because of the coronavirus," the IOC said in a statement reported by CNN. "This is categorically untrue ... All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer."
According to Yahoo, Florida has thrown its name into the ring if Tokyo decides it can’t hold the Olympics during a pandemic. Yahoo reported that Florida chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach encouraging them to “consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida. … With media reports of leaders in Japan 'privately' concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida.”
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