By Tom Jenkins
The 2022 Commonwealth Games – and the Wales team preparing for the Birmingham event – could face major disruption as a result of the decision to re-schedule the Tokyo Olympics for 2021.
The Olympics will now take place between July 23 and August 8 in 2021 – a move that could have serious implications for the Commonwealth Games the following year.
The push back from 2020 means next year’s World Athletics Championships could now have to be re-scheduled in 2022, causing a potential clash with the next Commonwealth Games.
The Birmingham showcase event is due to run from 27 July – 7 August 2022. The dates for next year’s Worlds Athletics event are 6 – 15 August in Eugene, Oregon.
The world’s best swimmers are also due to fight it out for medals at the World Swimming Championships in Japan between 27 July – 7 August next year.
While the leaders of the International Swimming Federation have said they will try not to postpone for a year, it must be an option if they cannot secure an earlier date in the year for their event.
If those two events are pushed back a year – the IOC and IAAF are already in discussions about the implications and possible outcomes for athletics – then they could come into direct conflict with the Commonwealth Games.
World Athletics President Seb Coe has already intimated the World Championships could be moved to 2022 to accommodate the Olympic Games.
“If we were to hold the next World Championships in 2022, a year after the Games, you would have the next ones in 2023, and then be in the Olympic Games in 2024,” he said.
“You would have athletics centre stage for four consecutive years. I think we could live with that, and that athletes could live with that, but it is still a matter for consideration.”
Athletes in Wales are already planning ahead and Team Wales will be hoping to build on two of their most successful Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 and Glasgow four years earlier.
And despite the uncertainty surrounding all aspects of the sporting landscape at present, Helen Phillips, chair of Commonwealth Games Wales, says planning for Birmingham is going well.
“At this time the most important thing is the welfare of all athletes, staff and their families. The sporting landscape is changing daily and it is impossible to predict how the next two years will look, even the next few months,” she said.
“However, in regards to Birmingham 2022, I am really pleased with our planning to date and our constant ambition is to work with the national governing bodies to deliver our very best athletes to perform at the Games. We are working closely with the Organising committee and it’s going to be an outstanding Games.
“We at Team Wales, and as a nation, are hugely passionate about representing our country on the big stage.”
In announcing the new Olympic dates, IOC President, Bach also said the Paralympic Games had been re-scheduled for 24 August – 5 September.
“I want to thank the International Federations for their unanimous support and the Continental Associations of National Olympic Committees for the great partnership and their support in the consultation process over the last few days,” said Bach.
“I would also like to thank the IOC Athletes’ Commission, with whom we have been in constant contact. With this announcement, I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge.
“Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020, can be a light at the end of this tunnel.
“These dates have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum.”
Worried Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) officials are believed to have written to World Athletics boss Coe and the International Swimming Federation in order to find the best way to ensure the very best athletes can compete at Birmingham 2022 regardless of the delay to this year’s Olympics.
CGF chief executive David Grevemberg told the insidethegames website: “Over the coming weeks, we will continue to work collaboratively with International Federation partners to ensure the XXII Commonwealth Games maintains its position and stature on the global sporting calendar.”
Also at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic is the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games due to be staged in Trinidad and Tobago between 1-7 August. Delivering such an event in the wake of the virus could become a concern, admitted Grevemberg.
“For the Commonwealth Sport Movement, the Olympics could now take place in close proximity to the Trinbago 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games. For this island state, preparations for the event have already been impacted by the dramatic increase in cases of COVID-19 in the region as well as the instability of the global economy,” he said.