A letter penned Friday by USA Swimming to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee encourages the USOPC to “advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
The letter could be an ominous sign for the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials — a precursor to the summer Olympics — which are scheduled to be in Omaha in June.
Tim Hinchey III, USA Swimming chief executive officer, requested in the letter that the USOPC, which is responsible for fielding U.S. teams for Olympic competition, use its voice on the international stage to “speak up for the athletes” and make a strong push to move the Tokyo Games to 2021.
Hinchey said the USOPC should help create a solution that would allow “all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021” in light of the rapidly expanding global pandemic.
If there were no Olympic Games in 2020, which are scheduled to begin July 23, there also would be no U.S. trials in any sport, including swimming.
That means the eight-day USA Swimming trials at Omaha’s CHI Health Center, scheduled to begin June 21, would not be conducted.
Both Mike Unger, USA Swimming’s chief operating officer, and Josh Todd of the Omaha Sports Commission said that Friday’s letter does not halt the planning for the trials in Omaha. For instance, the pool is scheduled to begin being installed May 20 or 21.
“We’re not the keeper of the keys here,” Unger said by phone from Colorado Springs. “We don’t control the Olympic Games. Right now the Olympic Games are on and the Trials are on.”
Unger said that if the Olympics are indeed postponed for one year, USA Swimming would still have the Swim Trials in Omaha.
“Our hope is that if the IOC postpones by one year, that will trickle down and we’d have the trials in Omaha on dates that would be confirmed with the venue, hotels, the College World Series, the NCAA, just as we have done in the past,” Unger said. “A postponement is not easy, we get that.
“As of now, we’re on. We don’t have a say in a lot of this, but we have to be ready for anything. It’s our obligation at USA Swimming to consider all options whether the Trials and Games are on or whether the Trials and Games are off.”
Kristyna Engdahl, director of communications for MECA Omaha, which manages the CHI Health Center, said everyone in her organization is ready to work with all parties involved to make sure the Trials take place for the fourth consecutive time since 2008 in Omaha.
“At the same time next year it looks like we have a lot of flexibility to accommodate that,” Engdahl said. “It truly depends on the timeframe and if there are events that are moveable.
“It’s a huge event for Omaha, and it’s an honor for us to be a part of it. We certainly will do our best to be flexible and accommodating.”
Todd, president of the Omaha Sports Commission, echoed Engdahl’s thoughts on the ability to be flexible in a suddenly topsy-turvy situation.
“Should the Olympics be delayed a year, we would of course be disappointed,” Todd said. “But we understand and support our partner USA Swimming’s position. We are working with MECA and local partners with the goal to host the trials.
“Whether that is this summer or next summer is anyone’s guess. We believe we can make it happen, but it depends on dates. This is a very fluid situation.”