The Summer Olympic Games, arguably the most important sporting event every four years is scheduled to take place in July 2020. Yes, you read it correctly. The Tokyo Olympic Games is the one sporting event that has not been cancelled or postponed in spite of COVID-19 outbreaks all over the world.
Everybody hopes that by July, quarantines are lifted, social gatherings are restored and, most importantly, high-risk patients are safe and sound without further risks of contagion. Although there are serious questions about how Japan will guarantee the safety of thousands of athletes and spectators, let’s pretend for a second that this will be the case. With that out of the way, the most pressing question at this point has nothing to do with a pandemic.
As isolation and social distancing grows around the world, athletes are unable to find places to train. There is no access to training facilities so at this rate, they will not be ready to compete at their best level when the quarantine is lifted. This, assuming there is a way to extend the qualification period for a couple of weeks.
As we mentioned in a previous article, European countries are suspending their biggest spring marathon races where athletes could potentially qualify for Tokyo. Most of them will take place in September and October. This is important because the qualification period for Marathon and Race walks ends in May 31. Even the World Athletics Indoor Championships, initially scheduled for March 13-15, 2020, was suspended until March 2021. The same applies to track and field events because their qualification period ends on June 29.
According to an Australian newspaper article “There has been discussion in world athletics of abandoning the regular qualification process and just issuing quotas to countries to nominate a number of athletes." This is unfair because the only way to know who is ready to go to the Olympic Games is based on latest performances on the track, competing and showing off what each athlete is capable of. Statistics and books do not portray the current state of an athlete.
Those are also under a lot of pressure because they cannot train. They have to keep or improve their shape, so they make sure that they arrive to the competition in their best possible physical condition. In addition, this, in itself, creates an unfear advantage because some individuals have access to facilities as each country is dealing with lockdowns and social isolation in a different way. What about those stranded in apartments buildings and small houses? How are they going to get ready even if they are already qualified?