Athletes qualified for Tokyo 2020 will keep 2021 spots

By AFP: Saturday, March 28th 2020 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Victory Ceremony - Women's 1500m Victory Ceremony - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 17/08/2016. Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon (KEN) of Kenya poses with her gold medal. [REUTERS/Sergio Moraes] 

Athletes who had already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before they were postponed will keep their places when the showpiece takes place in 2021, sources told AFP on Thursday.

Around 57 per cent of the 11,000 scheduled participants for Tokyo had already made sure of taking part when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) pushed the Games back to 2021 due to the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The IOC and 32 international sports federations held a teleconference on Thursday where it was decided to respect the qualification process.

“Thomas Bach (the IOC President) first explained the reasons for the postponement of the Games, then said that the athletes qualified for Tokyo 2020 would automatically be qualified for 2021,” one of the participants in the conference told AFP.

“One of the main subjects was to know when and how to organise the qualifications.”

The 2020 Tokyo Games were scheduled for July 24 to August 9, but after telephone discussions between Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a historic joint decision was taken for the first postponement of an Olympics in peacetime

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However, there is no definite date yet for the rescheduled Games with Bach saying on Tuesday the Tokyo Olympics “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community”.

Many Olympic sports, such as boxing, saw the vast majority of their qualifying tournaments either interrupted or cancelled due to the global health situation.

Others, such as sailing however, already had 90 per cent of their competitors qualified. 

“The allocated quotas remain allocated,” confirmed another participant in Thursday’s meeting.

“Thomas Bach has confirmed that a decision (on a new date for the 2021 event) will be made within the next four weeks,” he said. 

“Some said they prefer May 2021, others June ...” 

Some federation chiefs also expressed financial concerns, claiming in advance part of the sums traditionally allocated after the Olympic Games by the IOC to the governing bodies. 

Meanwhile, the postponement of the 2020 Olympics delivers a short-term blow to US broadcasting giant NBC but the network is unlikely to suffer lasting damage from the bombshell decision, analysts say.

The global coronavirus pandemic forced the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government to call off the July 24 to August 9 games on Tuesday, a move never before seen in peacetime in the Olympics’ 124-year history.

While the decision was welcomed by increasingly anxious athletes and sports federations who had lobbied for a postponement, it handed a giant headache to the IOC’s long-term broadcast partners NBC.

NBC, which has aired the Olympics since 1988, paid the IOC a gargantuan $7.75 billion for broadcast rights to the Olympics in 2014, a deal which runs through to the conclusion of the 2032 Summer Games.

The Summer and Winter Olympics coverage are cornerstones of NBC’s sports content strategy, delivering a money-spinning, blockbuster event for the network every two years.

Patrick Crakes, a media consultant and former Fox Sports executive, says retooling preparations to cover the Tokyo Olympics in a year’s time are difficult but not insurmountable.

“I can’t think of a bigger organisational mess,” Crakes told AFP. “But on the upside I think they’ll figure it out.

“It’s just such a massive undertaking. The Olympics are a strategic investment for Comcast/NBC Universal. The entire organization is oriented every two years towards producing, promoting and executing an audiovisual telecast for the Olympics. Now you’ve got to redo everything.

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