Utah Olympic athletes unable to train for Tokyo after facilities close

By Alex Cabrero, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 21, 2020 at 6:35 p.m.

PARK CITY — Several Olympic athletes have been unable to fully prepare for the Tokyo 2020 games, after coronavirus concerns forced the closure of training facilities across the world and closer to home in Utah.

It has been eerily quiet for the last week at the Utah Olympic Park. The facility would normally be teeming with skiers and sledders this time of year.

The same is true for cross country skiers at Soldier Hollow and skaters at Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns. They would all be training for athletic competition.

The Beehive State’s Olympic facilities were built mostly for winter athletes, but a few summer games hopefuls train in Utah because of the altitude.

Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation CEO Colin Hilton, said those facilities had to close because of coronavirus concerns and social distancing.

“We’re just like everybody else, hunkered down at the moment,” Hilton said Friday. “We’re currently planning on a shutdown period anywhere from 30 days to 90 days, at the moment. Perhaps longer.”

It was that “perhaps longer” part that has many people wondering the status of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The games are scheduled to begin July 24.

“We’re just going to cross our fingers that the games go off without any concerns of the coronavirus,” said Marc Norman, CEO of USA Climbing, which is based in Salt Lake City.

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Norman was excited about these games because climbing is set to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and Team USA has four climbers who have qualified for the Olympics.

As of Friday, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Games organizers said the Olympics were still going on as planned.

“Everybody realized that there we still have more than four months to go and we will keep acting in a responsible way in the interest of the athletes,” said Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. “We just had a really great call with 220 athletes’ representatives from all around the world. It was very constructive and gives us a lot of insight because with it we will continue to be very realistic in our analysis.”

However, in Japan, spectators were asked to stay away when the Olympic flame arrived earlier in the week.

We’re currently planning on a shutdown period anywhere from 30 days to 90 days, at the moment. Perhaps longer.

–Colin Hilton, Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation CEO

Fans were also asked to practice social distance if they go see the torch as runners take it through towns.

“We want to ensure that we are taking part in restricting this virus as much as possible, and we are supportive of that, but at the end of the day, the goal is to help all of our athletes get to Tokyo,” said Kirsty Coventry, executive board member with the International Olympic Committee.

While the Tokyo Games were still on schedule, here in the United States and in Utah, Olympic training facilities remained closed.

“What we can do is prepare for when we’re re-opening. Hopefully. That’s the big unknown right now,” said Hilton.

Hilton is also a member of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee and said the group met virtually recently to continue discussions about Salt Lake’s future bid for either 2030 or 2034.

The committee talked about budget options. However, the big Olympic question remained, what about 2020?

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