USA Swimming, one of the most important national governing bodies within the U.S. Olympic community, has called for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to be postponed for one year, USA TODAY Sports has learned.
In a letter sent Friday afternoon to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said that as the coronavirus outbreak has grown, he has “watched our athletes’ worlds be turned upside down and watched them struggle to find ways to continue to prepare and train – many for the biggest competitive opportunity of their lives.”
Wrote Hinchey: “Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all. Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness should be among the highest priorities.
“It is with the burden of these serious concerns that we respectfully request that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by one year. There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021.
“We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes.”
USA Swimming’s decision to write the letter was based on overwhelming support from its top swimmers, coaches and officials.
“I’m very proud of USA Swimming,” Bob Bowman, the renowned swimming coach who trained Michael Phelps throughout his illustrious career, said in a phone conversation. “I was hoping they would take a leadership role and Tim Hinchey clearly did with that letter. I hope other NGBs will join us.”
The USOPC did not immediately offer a comment, but earlier in the day, board chair Susanne Lyons said on a conference call with reporters that a decision on the status of the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to begin July 24, did not have to be made right away.
“I think we would concur with (the International Olympic Committee) to say that we need more expert advice and information than we have today to make a decision,” Lyons said. “And we don’t have to make a decision. Our Games are not next week, or two weeks from now. They’re four months from now. And I think a lot may change in that time period.
“So we are affording the IOC the opportunity to gather that information and expert advice. At this point in time, we do not feel that it’s necessary for us to insist that they make a decision.”