Postponement increases the game’s costs, Olympic athletes’ training affected
Until 2020, the last time the Olympics didn’t take place as scheduled was during World War II, when the games were cancelled. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Olympic Games were postponed until July 23, 2021, making the games of the XXXII Olympiad the first in history to be postponed.
Some student-athletes who had been looking forward to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games were disappointed that the games had been postponed, as they couldn’t watch their favorite athletes compete.
“I was sad when the Olympics were postponed until next summer because I really like to watch different countries compete [in] volleyball,” sophomore and varsity volleyball player Layne Scheinberg said. “I play volleyball competitively, so I was excited to watch Walsh Jennings play beach volleyball, but I’ll just have to wait until summer.”
The 2021 Olympics will be hosted by Japan, but the country’s borders have been closed since April of 2020 and many are questioning whether they will open their borders by the time of the games. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, organizers announced that they may limit capacity in the Olympic village. And athletes will be asked to leave immediately after they finish competing.
But plans will continue to change. Amanda Neuhoff, parent to Jack Neuhoff ‘17, Scott Neuhoff ‘19, senior Cleo Neuhoff and freshman Charlie Neuhoff, worked at the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996 and was in charge of volunteer staffing in Centennial Olympic Park.
“The host city must provide training facilities for the athletes so they can stay in shape while they are waiting for their events to occur,” Neuhoff said. “The athletes can come and go as they please. They don’t have to stay for the entire games and they also don’t have to show up until it is time for their event. Now with COVID being a concern, I don’t know what Japan will be planning to ensure the safety of the athletes.”
The International Olympic Committee is assuming that not everyone attending will be vaccinated by July. Organizers have talked about the IOC vaccinating visitors as a sign of respect to the host country.
“It would be great if there was some way to verify that all attendees were COVID-free,” Neuhoff said. “But I don’t know how they can do that and also get everyone into and out of events in an efficient manner. The difficult challenge with COVID is the delayed appearance of symptoms or the fact that someone can have it but be asymptomatic.”
It costs countries billions of dollars to host the Olympics, as they must provide venues and infrastructure such as hotel rooms being built and airports needing to be updated and constructed. Japan has spent over $12 billion preparing for the Olympics. Some even estimate that the country has spent $26 billion. Postponing the games has cost the organizers more than $1 billion, and the IOC has doubled their contribution to the organizers to $1.6 billion to help with the cost.
“The host cities are usually responsible for providing and building the venues,” Neuhoff said. “How each country decides to raise the money to build out everything varies greatly. The Olympic Committee usually gets its money from sponsorships like McDonald’s or Coke and they usually have certain standards that must be met in regards to the venues and how the athletes are treated which can create some tension between them and the host city.”
For athletes, COVID-19 has disrupted their training for the Olympics, making it especially hard to stay in shape. Scheinberg can relate to the disruption that COVID-19 has caused in athletic training.
“In the spring, my old club shut down in March, but to continue training we would have Zoom practices where we would do drills that involve footwork, self passing, and workouts to keep ourselves in shape,” Scheinberg said. “Not being able to play in games and practice with my teammates made me lose some of my skills temporarily. It was a struggle to regain them during the summer before school season.”
Although there are many concerns about the 2021 Olympics, some think that it will be the light at the end of the tunnel—that after the world has conquered the pandemic, the 2021 Summer Olympics will be the event that reunites the world.
“The most significant [aspect] of the Olympics is the entire world coming together for a joint experience,” Byron Neuhoff, who ran with the torch in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said. “I can’t think of any other occasion where the entire world is focused on one shared event.”
Training at the top level
Coach Susan Quill has been the school’s womens varsity soccer coach for a year. Formerly, she was a soccer player at the University of North Carolina, from 1999 to 2002, and simultaneously, the U.S. National Team, in 1998 to 2000.
Like an Olympic athlete, her schedules were extremely hectic and very different. Similarly, she had to put in hard work for both college and the national team; however, training at the collegiate level required being proactive.
“While playing a sport in college, the athletes are on a rigid schedule,” Quill said. “Between classes, lifting, practicing, traveling and studying, there isn’t much down time. The tight schedule taught me to manage my time efficiently.”
Playing on the U.S. National Team was very different as she had to dedicate all her time to playing with them. In this case, sports came first over education.
“When you are with the national team, you are only with the national team,” Quill said. “For instance, in the second semester of my freshman year in college I was training with the Olympic team in San Diego. So, I had to drop out of college for the semester to only train.”
When Quill left collegiate to play at the next level, many people along the way questioned her about the “sacrifices” she made. As an athlete playing at such a high level, loving the sport is crucial to making someone a better player.
“To be the best at anything requires hard work. It’s grueling,” Quill said. “You have to love it. For me, it wasn’t a sacrifice. I like having goals and I looked forward to every practice, game, travel, and challenge.”
Because of COVID-19, school sport games and practices, such as soccer, and the Olympics have been postponed.
“I would be devastated if a season or big tournament were canceled due to COVID-19,” Quill said. “Athletics and being on a team are so much of my fabric, drive, and community. It is tough to put sweat and time into something that doesn’t equate to a final.”