Jae C. Hong, AP Photo

Utah Olympians react to Tokyo 2020 postponement

By Alex Cabrero, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:43 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Although many Utah Olympic athletes agreed with the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 games, some were left wondering, what happens with those who had already qualified?

It would be nearly impossible to count the number of hours and days Kathleen Noble has spent training.

“It’s been going pretty well,” she said.

All that training was to prepare for her one shining Olympic moment this coming summer.

That all changed when she found out the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed, likely until 2021.

“I wasn’t surprised, I suppose,” said Noble. “I’ve been kind of mentally preparing for this over the last few weeks, and it seemed increasingly inevitable.”

Noble, who lives in Salt Lake City, was one of the first athletes in the world to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

She’s a rower for Team Uganda, the African country where she grew up.

Noble said she understood why the games were postponed, and agreed with the decision for the safety of athletes and everyone else involved.

However, she said the decision left her wondering if athletes who qualified for 2020 will automatically get in for 2021.

“I have no idea,” said Noble. “I’ve not been informed about this yet. I’m hoping that I don’t need to re-qualify.”

Marc Norman, the CEO for Salt Lake City-based USA Climbing, said he thinks athletes who already qualified will get in.

USA Climbing had four climbers qualify for the Tokyo Games.

“We believe that’s the case. I think it’s not quite clear yet. A lot of those conversations still need to happen, but we do believe our officially invited athletes that have earned their spots retain their spots,” said Norman.

It also gives athletes another year to prepare, which Norman said could be looked at as a positive, since climbing was set to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

He was just thankful Tuesday morning’s announcement was a postponement, and not a cancellation.

“Of course, we’re disappointed the games aren’t going to go on, but I think the world, and everyone, is realizing it is the right decision,” he said. “It’s best for our athletes’ health and well-being.”

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The athletes are the biggest part of the Olympics, but there is also a very large business side to the games that includes sponsorships, travel plans, and ticketing.

“The business model of the games is very complex,” said Jeff Robbins, CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins was involved in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympic Games.

He has had to postpone a majority of the roughly 50 events the Commission is involved with this Spring and Summer, but can’t imagine something on the scale of postponing an Olympics.

“To unwind something like that, you can start going down the hit list of sheets and sheets and sheet of things from merchandising, ads already being placed, hotel rooms. It’s enormous,” said Robbins.

Billions of dollars globally were put on hold for another year.

“There are a lot of things going on that right now are a little more important than sports, and I’m a sports guy, so that’s hard for me to say, but it’s true,” said Robbins.

However, Robbins said when the games do happen, they will be a celebration and a healing for the world — much like Salt Lake’s Olympics just a few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I’m really optimistic that will happen,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, we have to make sure we take care of the issues at hand.”

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