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It will be a welcome the world double whammy whoa to go with the world woes.
Within a span of only a few hours, Edmonton will have likely lost two significant events — the Aug. 17-23 Triathlon World Series Grand Final & World Championships and May 13-19 Volleyball Super Nationals — involving a combined 14,000 athletes and 24,500 additional connected coaches, officials and spectators.
Sunday, when the International Olympic Committee announced that they’d wait another four weeks to decide the fate of Tokyo Olympics, triathlon event president Sheila O’Kelly almost screamed it on the other end of our phone call.
“We don’t have four weeks!”
Now, with Canada leading the way to inspire the IOC to postpone, it’s obvious O’Kelly will almost certainly have 17 months. Wednesday morning O’Kelly was on the ITU conference call to deal with the postponement of the event until next year. It’s on a tee to happen Thursday.
“The ITU is working around the clock engaging all their event partners and I am confident they are doing their best to address everyone’s concerns both for 2020 and 2021. So much of the season depends on the date of the Olympics and they have to wait on IOC for this decision. The ITU Executive Board will meet (Thursday) and we may have updates immediately after that.”
They have no choice. At this point Edmonton isn’t going to want to welcome an infected world and most of that world wouldn’t likely be coming anyway.
And they know that. The expectation is that the decision will made before most Canadians get out of bed Thursday.
The Edmonton 2020 Worlds were very much tied in to the Tokyo Olympics scheduled before it and the expectation is that will again be the case in 2021.
Edmonton 2020 featured the men’s and women’s Olympic field, a Grey Cup-sized $12 million budget, 4,000 international age group athletes from 70 nations from ages 8 to 80, was projected bring 7,000 connected visitors to the city and bring a projected economic impact of $23 million. The volleyball Super Nationals was projected to have an economic impact of $38 million according to Doug McLean of Events Edmonton.
“We had 833 teams, including 298 from Alberta, registered for Edmonton including approximately 10,000 athletes, about 1,600 coaches and an estimated 15,000 connected visiting spectators as well as staff, volunteers, vendors, etc.,” said Jackie Skender of Volleyball Canada.
“We were also planning international U20 and U21 tournaments involving teams from Central and North America as well as the Caribbean.”
She said the next Super Nationals is set for 2022 and that Edmonton would likely be at the top of the list to host.
“We all knew from the information we’d received from health authorities, that this isn’t something that’s going to end in the next month or two months,” said O’Kelly of the triathlon event.
Prior to Tuesday, WTS Abu Dhabi, WTS Bermuda and WTS Leeds had already been cancelled with WTS Hamburg looking hopeless considering the COVID-19 numbers in Germany and WTS Yokohama likely in a holding pattern awaiting the fate of the Tokyo Olympics.
“For a postponement there were so many different players that we had to speak with. In our case the ITU had the final decision,” she said.
“When I told you we didn’t have four weeks, everybody including the ITU realized that. But for a postponement of an event of this magnitude there are so many other connections to be considered.
“We are very anxious to get this settled, especially for the athletes. Our athletes, our community and all of our funders needed to know. But above all the athletes need to know — not just the elite athletes. All the age-group athletes needed to know. Both the 2021 (Bermuda) and 2022 (Ahbu Dhabi) Worlds had previously been awarded. Those organizing committees needed to move them back a year.”
O’Kelly said it should be a relatively smooth transition.
“We’re only five months out and we’re pretty organized and that’s including making use of much of the money that’s been committed. We believe it will remain committed.”
O’Kelly already sees the upside for a postponement and has for a while now. There wasn’t just the health of the athletes, the training of the athletes but also welcoming the world when much of the world is currently contagious.
And there’s also the nature of the event that other than a few grandstands around the transition area, is free for the general public. There’s the big question if they’d be encouraged to gather around a course throughout the city in close quarters.
“When we come out of this, completely come out of this, when we hopefully get the decision to reschedule to next year, we will want to bring life completely back to normal and have an event like this to get out together and celebrate with each other and with so many other people from around the world. We’ll probably want to do that and need to do that twice as much as we do right now.”
The bottom line, as is the case with the Olympics, Tokyo 2021 will be a far greater event in which to compete than Tokyo 2020 was going to end up being. It should be the same way with Edmonton 2021.
“We could be holding a wonderful ‘Back To The Future’ event,” said O’Kelly.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020