US Olympic CEO tells athletes to plan for Games like no other

Published January 28, 2021, 9:17 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2019, US Olympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland speaks during the 2019 Team USA Awards at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

American athletes should prepare for the Tokyo Olympics but expect a Games unlike any other due to COVID-19, US Olympic and Paralympic Committee chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland said Wednesday.

In a letter to Team USA athletes posted on the US Olympic website, Hirshland warned competitors to be adaptable and open to making sacrifices with changing situations possible before the scheduled July 23 Olympic opening ceremony in Japan.

“Our expectation today is that the Games will go forward,” Hirshland wrote. “They will look and feel different than any previous Games, as we will all be asked to continue to make sacrifices and adaptations to protect the health of our community.

“We’ll learn more in the coming weeks, and the USOPC and the NGBs (national sport governing bodies) will continue working extraordinarily hard to mitigate against the unexpected, and to give every Team USA athlete the best opportunity to achieve their sporting dream — with as little distraction as possible.

“At the same time, know that the safety and well being of Team USA is our number one concern and it guides every decision we make.”

A major distraction and worry for athletes worldwide came in a recent report the Olympics would be called off. IOC leaders and organizing chiefs dismissed the report but not before worldwide concern, including by those hoping to compete in Tokyo.

“Amidst a lot of uncertainty and questions, the countdown to the Tokyo Games continues,” Hirshland wrote. “Though we can expect there will be a lot of speculation and opportunity for misinformation in the weeks and months ahead, know that we will share official updates with this community as soon as we have them.”

The Tokyo Olympics, planned for last July and August, were postponed in the wake of the global COVID-19 outbreak and reset for similar dates this year as vaccines begin to reach populations across the globe.

Even so, there are expected to be numerous changes and safeguards in place to allow for competition at the Tokyo Olympics due to the virus pandemic.

“There’s still a lot to be excited about,” Hirshland said. “After all, these are the Olympic and Paralympic Games –- and they have a long history of bringing the world together and bringing out the best in those who compete and celebrate them.”

With just under six months until the Olympics, Hirshland offered support to the American Olympic community.

“The collective commitment and focus through these unprecedented times is nothing short of remarkable,” she wrote. “It’s an exemplary demonstration of unity, teamwork and the very spirit that defines Team USA.”