A letter penned Friday by USA Swimming to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee encouraged the USOPC to “advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
The letter could be an ominous sign for the U.S. Swim Trials — the qualifier to the Olympics — which are scheduled for June 21 through 28 in Omaha.
Tim Hinchey III, president and chief executive officer of USA Swimming, requested in the letter that the USOPC, which is responsible for fielding U.S. teams for the Olympics, use its voice on the international stage to “speak up for the athletes” and make a strong push to move the Tokyo Games to 2021.
Hinchey said the USOPC should help create a solution that would allow “all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021” in light of the expanding global pandemic.
If there were no Olympics in 2020, there also would be no U.S. Trials in any sport, including swimming.
Mike Unger, chief operating officer for USA Swimming, and Josh Todd, president of the Omaha Sports Commission said that Friday’s letter does not halt the planning for the Trials at CHI Health Center. For instance, installation of the pool is scheduled to begin May 20 or 21.
“We’re not the keeper of the keys here,” Unger said by phone from Colorado Springs. “We don’t control the Olympic Games. Right now, the Olympic Games are on and the Trials are on.”
Unger said that if the Olympics are postponed for one year, USA Swimming would still have the Trials in Omaha.
“Our hope is that if the IOC postpones by one year, that will trickle down and we’d have the Trials in Omaha on dates that would be confirmed with the venue, hotels, the College World Series, the NCAA, just as we have done in the past,” Unger said. “A postponement is not easy, we get that.
“As of now, we’re on. We don’t have a say in a lot of this, but we have to be ready for anything. It’s our obligation at USA Swimming to consider all options whether the Trials and Games are on or whether the Trials and Games are off.”
Kristyna Engdahl, director of communications for the Metropolitan Entertainment Convention Authority, which manages the CHI Health Center, said everyone in her organization is ready to work with all parties to make sure the Trials take place for the fourth consecutive time in Omaha.
“At the same time next year, it looks like we have a lot of flexibility to accommodate that,” Engdahl said. “It truly depends on the time frame and if there are events that are movable.
“It’s a huge event for Omaha, and it’s an honor for us to be a part of it. We certainly will do our best to be flexible and accommodating.”
Todd echoed Engdahl’s thoughts on the ability to be flexible in a changing situation.
“Should the Olympics be delayed a year, we would of course be disappointed,” Todd said. “But we understand and support our partner USA Swimming’s position. We are working with MECA and local partners with the goal to host the Trials.
“Whether that is this summer or next summer is anyone’s guess. We believe we can make it happen, but it depends on dates. This is a very fluid situation.”