ORANGE PRATTLE: Postponing Summer Olympics best for athletes and spectators

News Press file photo Former Oklahoma State wrestler Jordan Oliver had qualified to compete in the USA Wrestling Olympic Team Trials originally scheduled for April 4-5. The Team Trials had been postponed last week, and according to a USA Today report Monday, the 2020 Summer Games scheduled to begin July 24 in Japan will be postponed.

Sports is nothing like it's showcased in Hollywood movies.

There is no five-minute training montage to where athletes who haven’t been training for months are suddenly prepared to knock off one of the top physical specimens on the planet.

That’s what would have been needed if the 2020 Summer Olympics were to move forward with being hosted on its original dates – July 24 through Aug. 9.

Obviously, the now daily concern around the novel coronavirus is a driving force behind preventing thousands of athletes from all across the world traveling to one centralized location – before returning to their home countries after several weeks surrounded by those thousands of athletes.

But the product and closing window to prepare makes it an easy decision from the point of view of athletes and spectators.

Some athletes rely on training at colleges or training centers – places that have begun to shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the world.

And qualifying tournaments have already been postponed – such as the USA Wrestling Olympic Team Trials originally scheduled for April 4-5 on Penn State’s campus, where several wrestlers with Oklahoma State ties had qualified to compete.

With no idea when these tournaments could be held, thus limiting the intense training regimen for those competing at the Olympics, there is a chance for injury or potentially a drive toward some athletes to use banned substances to expedite training due to a shorter window.

While many may think more about the individual sports that fill most of the Summer Games, lest we forget about the team sports that will not be allowed to train together and grow cohesion due to social distancing.

But one team sport more than any other would perhaps be most affected if they were to maintain the original schedule for the Olympics.

With the NBA season currently suspended by a month – so far – it is looking like a possibility of the playoffs, which normally finish with the NBA Finals in mid-June, could conclude in July – or later.

That would prevent many NBA players from competing in the Summer Olympics for the first time since the U.S. team featured college players for the last time in 1988.

Seeing the best of the best in respective sports is one of the biggest draws for the Olympic Games.

From a spectator’s standpoint alone – even if they were to hold the Olympics in empty venues, which would alone be a big blow to host Japan – there is a possibility the athletes wouldn’t be in peak performance shape and not only risk injury, but put out a less-than-stellar product on the world’s biggest stage.

Much like the cancellation of college athletics, postponement of professional athletics and the uncertainty surrounding the potential loss of the remaining high school sports season, it was only a matter of time – and competence – before the event that brings the world together every four years follow suit. These are unprecedented times we live in, but precedent in sports was already laid out for the International Olympic Committee.

History will look favorably on those willing to make the tough, but right choices.

The Olympic motto is hendiatris Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for "faster, higher, stronger.” This week, it also includes the word smarter.

Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at jelmquist@stwnewspress.com.

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