Lead Australian athletics coach Nic Bideau, thinks Olympics will be postponed

A senior Australian athletics coach believes the Olympics will be postponed because thousands of top athletes have been unable to properly prepare for the Games, as the coronavirus pandemic causes lockdowns around the world.

Thousands of the best athletes around the world will be unable to compete to qualify for Olympic teams, with athletics Diamond League meets poised to be cancelled due to restrictions on mass gatherings. European and American national titles are also in doubt due to the same crowd restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lead Australian athletics coach Nic Bideau, who trains some of Australia's best middle distance runners, said many of the big countries in athletics were doubtful of being able to select teams under the normal qualifying system.

Bideau said that regardless of whether Japan recovered enough to host the Games, whether countries would have teams to send should be a compelling consideration for organizers.

"At the moment the situation is getting worse, not better [in the US and many countries in Europe] so those events will be unlikely to go ahead," he said.

"The big countries won't have teams to send. I think they will end up having the Games pushed back 12 months rather than cancelled. The small sports need the Olympics for profile and money coming in, they can't survive without the Olympics, so I think they will push it back 12 months."

There has been discussion in world athletics of abandoning the regular qualification process and just issuing quotas to countries to nominate a number of athletes.

But while nations in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia and South Africa, might be able to nominate teams because they have just completed domestic summer seasons, most European countries and Canada and the US have not. The latter group has also not had athletes hit qualifying standards.

"We could pick our team from qualified athletes and world rankings and so could South Africa but at the moment people are not thinking about that [qualifying for Olympics], they are thinking what will happen with the world? Is it worth thinking about playing sport and running competitions when this is happening?

"Everyone is marking time for a month, training a bit, and hoping that events can be held in June in Europe and the US, but it unlikely those events can be held."

The US Olympic track and field team is picked only from athletes who finish first, second or third at the US Olympic trials. To be on the team you must compete at the trials, but if the trials are not held then as it stands now, it would be impossible to pick a team.

posted Wednesday March 18th
by Michael Gleeson