The question isn’t if basketball will be played at the Tokyo Olympics. The question is this: When will the Tokyo Olympics take place?
There are growing doubts that this will be an Olympic year. Growing sentiment points to 2021, or later.
The original plan, which called for the Tokyo Olympics to start on July 24, appears less likely with each passing day, making the Olympic basketball tournament a big question like everything else.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee, led by Thomas Bach, and Tokyo 2020 organizers face mounting opposition to their intended plans.
Calls to postpone the Olympics
On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee became the first NOC to announce it would not send athletes to Japan for the 2020 Games, citing health and safety concerns during the coronavirus outbreak. “This is not solely about athlete health – it is about public health,” the COC said in a statement. “With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”
Meanwhile, World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe, who headed the 2012 London Games organizing committee, is also advocating for the Summer Games to be postponed. “Nobody wants to see the Olympic Games postponed but … we cannot hold the event at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety,” Coe said on Sunday.
Less than 24 hours later, the Australian Olympic Committee executive board confirmed that Australia wouldn’t participate in 2020, citing the nation’s travel ban and other factors. AOC boss Matt Carroll explained: “Last Thursday was a different set of circumstances to standing here today. There has been dramatic change in our own country and across the world…”
What’s more, the IOC has given itself a four-week period to consider the possibility of postponing the Tokyo Olympics.
Qualified teams for Tokyo Olympics
There are only 12 nations that receive berths the basketball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics. Australia is on the men’s list. Who would replace Australia if the Tokyo Olympics remain on the 2020 calendar?
Australia and Canada are among the scheduled 12 women’s participants Who would step in to take the place of Australia and Canada?
With the EuroLeague, almost all other pro circuits, and the NBA suspended, the NCAA season cut short before national tournaments began, and FIBA competitions called off, players and teams are not functioning as they normally would in preparation for the summer and for the Tokyo Olympics.
In short, basketball has stopped.
These are unprecedented times for national team coaches and selection committees, too.
Even if Bach and his inner circle give the green light to hold the Tokyo Olympics this year, there are concerns about basketball teams being both ready and competitive. And if there’s even enough time for teams to assemble for training camps.
Furthermore, travel restrictions around the world connected to the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly reduced air travel. Nations have been closing their borders. Lifting those restrictions takes time. How long? We really don’t know.
Injury risks and contractual issues after long layoffs could certainly factor into the equation, too.
Athletes and society at large are being ordered to avoid crowds. And with public facilities and private gyms being shut down, typical opportunities to work out and participate in pickup games have decreased.
Increasingly, sports schedules are being altered as individuals, organizations, leagues, and governing bodies deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
For instance, FIBA last week canceled the draw for the Tokyo Olympics basketball tournament. It was to be held in Switzerland.
In addition, the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualification Tournament, which was to be held in Bengaluru, India, from March 18-20, was postponed earlier this month.
Four Olympic men’s qualifying tourneys, set to tip off in Lithuania, Serbia, Canada, and Croatia in late June, appear on the verge of being called off.
Like everything else related to sports these days, there are no guarantees.
Medical doctor’s viewpoint
The Province, a Canadian newspaper, interviewed Dr. Doug Clement about the COVID-19 pandemic for its Sunday edition. The 1952 Olympic sprinter presented a thoughtful response to the issue.
“I’m exposed to both worlds, as a medical person and the athletes,” Clement said. “And I understand (the IOC) is very reluctant to focus on the reality.
˚But from the medical point of view, this thing (the pandemic) won’t be blunted. There’s no chance the Olympics will take place. It’s not going to happen. This thing is coming like a freight train.”
A waiting game
U.S. women’s national team coach Dawn Staley spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer about how she’s dealing with the overall situation.
“I’m just going to hold on till we get closer,” Staley told the newspaper. “I just don’t want to think about it until we’re at a place where a decision can be made.”
Staley, who also works as the University of South Carolina bench boss, discussed how preparations for the Tokyo Olympics have been derailed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We had training camp set up, one at the Final Four, another at the end of April,” Staley said of Team USA preparations. “All that has been canceled.”