Sarah Hirshland, USOPC CEO (Team USA)
(ATR) The U.S.Olympic and Paralympic Committee is preparing for the possibility of a cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics.
Now scheduled for July 2021, the Tokyo Olympics still face numerous issues to settle before there can be certainty about whether the Games can take place.
“Yes we are planning for the worst-case scenario,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a news conference following the quarterly Board of Directors meeting.
“We are prepared to go to Tokyo,” she affirmed but acknowledged that the consequences of a possible cancellation need to be addressed ahead of any action by the IOC for Tokyo 2020.
“We have plans in place in case those games are cancelled. It will require substantial cuts to the organization,” said Hirshland.
Already 12.5 percent has been pruned from the four-year budget plan of the USOPC based on the impact of the Tokyo postponement. Hirshland says loans are being arranged in case they are needed to cover the significant shortfall she’s expecting from an outright cancellation.
“We are preparing for that scenario but not yet implementing it," she says.
Hirshland reported that the currently shuttered USOPC training centers in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid will resume operation June 26. Both centers closed in March when the U.S. lockdown due to the coronavirus took effect.
“We will start small. We will scale up slowly,” she said. The Colorado Springs center is used primarily by athletes in the summer Olympics while Lake Placid is focused on winter sports.
Hirshland says both are needed to prepare athletes for Tokyo next year and the Winter Olympics in Beijing that follow six months later in 2022. She says the USOPC aims to provide “a safe and productive environment for athletes to train".
Hirshland says the USOPC board discussed its response to the growing movement in the U.S. fighting racism. “Equality and inclusion is at the core of our organization. We are making sure black voices are heard,” she says.
Hirshland says 30 athletes have already stepped forward to serve on a working group aimed at addressing issues of equality and racism for the USOPC.
“Our commitment to the athletes community is that everything is on the table. We want to ensure that racism is not a part of the Olympic and Paralympic community,” she says.
In other developments from the board meeting, the third phase of governance reform will be presented for public comment in the coming days. The reforms were prompted by sexual abuse scandals in U.S. NGBs. The first phases of the reforms include an increased presence of athletes in USOPC decision-making.
This third phase covers a certification process that all NGBs will need to follow to retain their status. Included in these reforms will be the creation of a new board committee covering ethics and compliance. Those two areas were previously split among committees.
Recruitment is now underway to hire the first ever ethics and compliance officer for the USOPC.
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