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Volume 26 No. 138
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USOPC's Call For Postponement Likely Key Factor For IOC

USOPC's public advocacy for postponement was an about-face from Hirshland's previous comments
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
USOPC's public advocacy for postponement was an about-face from Hirshland's previous comments
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
USOPC's public advocacy for postponement was an about-face from Hirshland's previous comments
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The USOPC’s call to the IOC to postpone the Tokyo Games likely left the organization "little choice" but to do so, according to Nancy Armour of USA TODAY. Today's announcement that the Games will take place in '21 comes after Canada on Sunday said that it “would not send a team to Tokyo if the Games were held this summer, while Australia said shortly after that it will now prepare for 2021.” Germany, Norway and Brazil also have asked the IOC to delay the Games, but the U.S. “adding its voice to the chorus [was] a game-changer.” The U.S. sends "more athletes to the Games than any other country,” and NBC “pays more in rights fees than any other broadcasters.” The USOPC's decision was an “about-face from Friday,” when CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons indicated that a decision “did not need to be made right away since the Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics isn't until July 24.” However, they were “forced to reconsider after U.S. athletes were among the most vocal in saying the Games should be postponed” (USA TODAY, 3/24). In N.Y., Panja & Rich note with the U.S. urging a postponement, pressure likely increased on the IOC "to act soon” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jack Baer noted the recommendation carried "plenty of weight for the IOC” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/23).

EXPLAINING THE NEW STANCE: Lyons yesterday said that she “understood the frustration of American athletes who wanted a harder and earlier push toward postponement.” She said that she had been “advocating on their behalf behind the scenes.” Lyons also said that the size of the U.S. and its “investment in the Olympics made it more difficult for her and the USOPC to take public stands on issues without coming across as a bully.” She said that the organization “could have a ‘disproportionate impact,’ which means it has a larger responsibility to speak only when it is completely informed” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg prior to the USOPC’s statement last night wrote if Hirshland demands a postponement, it “would enhance her standing later.” Rosenberg: “Speaking up now is the right thing to do, for both public health and U.S. athletes. The 2020 Olympics will be postponed no matter what Hirshland does. But she should do what Canada and Australia have already done” (SI.com, 3/23).

USA GYMNASTICS SPEAKS UP: USA TODAY’s Armour reports USA Gymnastics yesterday joined USA Swimming and USA Track & Field in asking that the USOPC “lobby for a postponement of the Tokyo Games.” The decision comes after USA Gymnastics “surveyed 70 athletes in men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline” and found that 62% of respondents “favored postponement.” While most gymnasts favored postponement to ‘21, USA Gymnastics President & CEO Li Li Leung said that the NGB “was not going to specify a date to the USOPC” (USA TODAY, 3/24). In DC, Liz Clarke notes gymnastics, swimming and track and field are the “most watched summer Olympic sports and the most lucrative and influential in IOC decision-making.” In raising their voices, the sports’ American NGB “made a powerful statement that the Games should not be held as scheduled” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).