As the realities of a postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games set in for cities across the country, the unknown of what happens to remaining U.S. Olympic Trials events is causing a juggling act for sports commissions, CVBs and local organizing committees.
While some national governing bodies are starting to announce new dates for rescheduled trials, others are still working out logistics. Among those that have been rescheduled are the trials for swimming and track and field. But in Minneapolis, the city is still waiting word on a Paralympic trials event that was to combine swimming, cycling and track and field in June.
“You think of all the different trials scheduled to take place and that’s a lot of pieces to move around for sure,” said Matt Meunier, director of Sports Minneapolis. “We are not alone in this challenging time. There are other communities going through exactly what we’re going through.”
TrackTown Works Out Logistics
In Eugene, city leaders are not only dealing with the unknown of the Track and Field Trials, which had rescheduled for June 21–28 at the newly renovated Hayward Field. That event was to be the first held in the rebuilt stadium. There was the added complication of knowing it was scheduled to host the 2021 World Athletics Championship, scheduled for August 6–15 over the new dates of the Tokyo Games.
World Athletics has since announced new dates for the World Championships, July 15–24, 2022. The event will be the first time the world championships has been held in the United States.
“USATF worked diligently with all the key stakeholders to find a suitable date for rescheduling,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “Postponing to 2022 will allow us even more time to prepare for the world’s best athletes to descend on Eugene, Oregon. We appreciate the alliance of all partners including World Athletics, the local organizing committee and the state of Oregon.”
As for the trials, that event has now been rescheduled for June 18–27, 2021 in Eugene. TrackTown USA, the local organizing committee, worked with USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee on the rescheduled dates, as well as policies and procedures for those who bought tickets to the 2020 event. The competition schedule will remain much the same and existing ticket customers will have tickets automatically rolled over to the new dates in 2021.
Omaha Keeps Swimming Trials
In Omaha, the impact from recent canceled sports events has been significant. The city had been scheduled to host a round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships and is a regular host of the NCAA College World Series. Both events were lost to the NCAA’s decision to cancel its winter and spring championships.
But the Olympic Swimming Trials have been a source of pride for years. USA Swimming began hosting the trials in the city’s downtown arena in 2008 and has been back every four years since. This year’s event, scheduled for June 21–28, saw ticket sales pacing at 200,000 and the event was set to be a record-breaker. The 2016 trials generated more than 23,000 room nights.
Josh Todd, president and executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission, had previously said the next step will be to see what dates the IOC sets for the Games in 2021. “We are already diligently working with all our partners and our central focus is making sure the Swimming Trials stay in Omaha in 2021,” he said. “We believe we can still accommodate it here and make it happen. There will be a lot more clarity in the coming weeks once we have new date windows.”
And that work in Omaha paid off when USA Swimming announced the rescheduled event will be June 13–20, 2021, at the CHI Health Center. The event will feature the same program as was planned for 2020 and those who had tickets to the 2020 event will have the option of taking the same seats in 2021 or receiving a refund.
“Fans can expect to witness the same incredible level of competition and entertainment throughout this highly-anticipated event,” USA Swimming COO Mike Unger said in a press release announcing the change.
Minneapolis Waits and Sees
Paralympic events are also seeing an impact. For the second consecutive cycle, the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials were to see athletes in swimming, cycling, and track and field compete in one city to qualify for Team USA. In 2016, that event was staged in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 2020 event was scheduled for June 25–28 in Minneapolis but will be postponed in light of the delay in the Paralympic Games.
U.S. Paralympics said it would share details on the rescheduling “as soon as it is available.” But Meunier said the city had gained significant momentum to date. More than 600 volunteers were recruited for the event, which was to be held at three venues across the city for more than 400 athletes. “We were just three months away so we were really starting to get pretty deep into the planning stages,” he said.
Swimming events were to be staged at the University of Minnesota’s aquatics center. Track and field was to be held at a high school about 10 miles west of downtown. And cycling was to be held along the Mississippi River, the easiest of the events to be rescheduled since it mainly involves road closures, he said.
“The university aquatic center is a high-occupancy facility so we want to move quickly on that if we can,” Meunier said. “For the high school, hopefully we could work with June dates.” Other venues in the city may be an option as well depending on the dates, he said.
Like Omaha, Minneapolis also took a big hit with the cancellation of the NCAA postseason. The city’s U.S. Bank Stadium had been scheduled to host the Division I Wrestling Championships, the first time the event was to be held in a football stadium. The event was expected to shatter attendance records.
While the city has recently hosted showcase events such as the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl, Meunier said the Paralympic Team Trials were going to be as high-profile an event as the city had hosted in recent years.
“Any time an athlete is playing to represent our country, that’s a pretty unique experience and opportunity so we’re very excited to be part of it,” he said. “For us it’s a unique experience. We’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of NGB events like USA Volleyball and USA Fencing and those events are fantastic. This event is a world stage that it leads to. Hopefully we can get things rescheduled in a timely and efficient manner. But we’ll be patient and see the process through.”