The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are officially postponed a year due to coronavirus, and now have a new start date: July 23, 2021.
For some Olympic athletes, the delay gives the gift of an extra year to train. For others of a certain age, it might mean their Olympic career comes to an end sooner than they thought. Justin Gatlin, the sprinter who has competed at three Olympics and won five medals, is 38 years old and had planned to compete at the 2020 Summer Games. Now he’ll be 39 when the Games happen.
“Our bodies are not getting worn down from running races around the world this year, so you can preserve your energy, rest yourself, fix the knick-knack issues you have on your body and be ready for 2021,” he says. “And that works for anybody, veterans and rookies. I think who this really affects is the athletes who don’t have independent contracts with a shoe company, so they go around to meets and that’s how they make their money. Essentially, they’re not making any money this year at all, it’s a wash for them.”
Gatlin does have a shoe contract: Nike re-signed him in 2015 after dropping him in 2006 when he tested positive for testosterone. Gatlin was banned from competition by USADA from 2006 to 2010. Nike received some criticism for signing him again, but has stuck by him.
Now Nike and other sports apparel brands are dealing with the lost advertising revenue of a year without the Olympics, though there is some optimism since the Games are just delayed, not outright canceled.
“I heard from Nike, I’ve heard from athletes with other contracts,” Gatlin says. “A lot of companies are using the good faith built into their contracts, where this year basically will be a wash, they still will pay the athletes to be athletes for them and represent their brand, and they will just pick up everything going into the next season. So hopefully if your contract ends in 2020, it will be crossed over into 2021.”
Of course, sports apparel brands are just one group that will see a financial hit from the Olympic postponement: big corporate sponsors, television advertisers, and main broadcaster NBC will all have to count on that revenue rolling over to summer 2021, but there’s no guarantee, since the global economy could look very different after we emerge from coronavirus. What if fans are less inclined to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics? What if a large number of hotels, restaurants, and airlines have gone out of business?
For runners, Gatlin says, the calendar is full of meets long before the Summer Games, and some runners are still hopeful some of those meets will still happen.
“Our sport is different from NBA, NFL, it’s comprised of independent contractors,” he says. “So different runners around the world still have their meets, and a lot of them are hoping the corona issue kind of dissipates toward the end of the year.”
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.
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