Saturday, January 23
London, UK


Karate Olympics 2021

The Olympics are postponed to 2021. It has been in effect since yesterday. Why not in the fall of 2020 ? In spring or summer ? What consequences ? What about aborted Olympic qualifications ? What options are possible ? The points of the Madrid Worlds cancelled ? Many questions remain unanswered. And, for athletes, this can completely change the game. The weight of a year is not the same at 35 as at 25. Whatever happens, one thing is certain : forget the Olympic standing 2020.

It was inevitable, but only the IOC did not want to face the facts. It even ended up losing the hand. National Olympic committees, international and even national federations, many athletes have spoken out before : the Games will be without us.

The Tokyo Olympics have been officially postponed to 2021. A tough and heavy decision which creates enormous financial stakes for the IOC, but also for the national federations and the athletes, but a (belatedly) wise, sensible and logical decision. And now ?…

Tokyo2021: spring or summer ?

The IOC said it was giving itself “at least 4 weeks” to decide on a new date for the Games. Two hypotheses are studied : spring and summer 2021. “We are going to study the calendar of international competitions (world and continental championships) in great detail”, explained Christophe Dubi, the Games director at the IOC. Spring has two advantages : milder weather and reduced costs and compensation (site maintenance, etc) but one problem : The Olympic Games would compete with the professional team sports championships (football, basketball, etc) !!! 2nd option : next summer and why not on the same dates. A report to next summer would cost, according to an estimation of a professor in economics at Kansai University, up to 5.8 billion euros (for a budget of 11.6 billion euros today). On the choice of the date will depend the international calendar and the mode of qualification of the 33 different sports concerned by the Olympics and, therefore, of Karate.

Why not in the fall of 2020 ?

For purely economic reasons, the Japanese prioritized a postponement to the fall. But two points appeared unacceptable for this hypothesis. At present, 95% of countries have not yet experienced the peak (presumably inevitable) of the coronavirus. It is still too early to plan for any exit from the health crisis.

A postponement to the fall would have been subject to the same questions as for the dates initially planned : will the Games be able to take place ? In addition, a delay of 6 months does not allow athletes to catch up in terms of preparation. The Games would have been cut short.

Karate 2020 = Karate 2021 ?

Even if it is indisputable, the announcement is tough for the Karate champions. They were going to play their 1st (and for now, the last) Olympic Games in history. For 2 years, they have given body and soul, to the point of arriving exhausted (or even injured) before the end of the qualifications. Their federations, their clubs, budgeted (often tightly) until the summer of 2020, they even sometimes borrowed to banks. And things start over… Is everyone able to do it ?. On the other hand, another year to be Olympic can only be beneficial for all Karate. Recall that fear existed as to the post-Olympic Games 2020. This ensures an international calendar and the potential to see sponsors extend their lease for one year.

But without even getting to the heart of the matter, postponing a year can have direct sporting consequences. The weight of a year is not the same at 35 as at 25… 35, it is the age of the star of our sport, Rafael Aghayev who, like many thirty-something (Antonio Diaz, Luigi Busa, Sandra Sanchez Jaime…), would have stopped his career if Karate had not become Olympic.

OK for Olympic qualification ?… Impossible

It’s going to rush in the stretchers… Voices will rise, tears may even flow… Disappointment, even discouragement, will arise among the qualified athletes. But it is inconceivable, illogical, unthinkable that the final standing, established before the postponement of the Games, remains relevant.

Why ? Because the state of health emergency led to the cancellation of two events, one worldwide (Karate 1 Rabat) and the other continental (European Championships). The course is therefore not finished and some athletes could have qualified in case of good results (Chatziliadou missed 7,5 points, El Sawy 400…)

But above all, because we are no longer at that point, to complete a qualification course in March 2019 for a competition which takes place at least a year later is simply not relevant. Since the situation is exceptional, we can consider everything, including the improbable and the exceptional. However, for the time being, an obstacle remains : the IOC regulations stipulate that an Olympic ranking must start no more than 1.5 year before the Games and that the points awarded cannot count at 100% until the year preceding the OG (hence the ½ points awarded).

The Olympic qualification, what options ?

Obviously, everything will depend on the date chosen for the 2021 Olympic Games. But one thing already appears certain : the points awarded at the 2018 Madrid World championships can only be replaced by those of the 2020 World’s in Dubai, November 18-22 (if, of course, the coronavirus pandemic is contained and they are occurring as planned). As the Worlds are the only coefficient 12 competition, this changes the whole picture.

The logic must also be applied to the continental championships. For Europe, the question does not arise since the 2020 edition has been canceled (in March in Baku). But the last Panams were disputed in March 2019 and the Asians in July 2019 (the next were to take place in early September). For the Olympics in July-August 2021, that is to say 2 years later, the points appear not very credible.

In short, the logic would push to start from scratch at the continental championships. A golden opportunity to harmonize the calendar ? Why not set a single date for all of them ? To sum up… Worlds’ points, you forget, continental championships points, you may forget, it’s starting to be a lot…

Let’s take the most credible option : the Olympics will be held in the summer. Logic would dictate that the Olympic qualifying circuit be simply postponed by one year, that it be modeled on that of 2019-2020. A golden opportunity to erase the imperfections seen during the first version (unbalanced calendar, even overloaded, problematic of jet lag (Tokyo then Santiago then Moscow in a month), clear readability of the standing) ?

What about Karate 1 ? This is where the knot becomes Gordian ! A stricto sensu application of the IOC regulations would restart the 2021 standing from April 6, 2020. But, due to containment, all competitions are canceled for months. This point of the rules may be exceptionally modified under the circumstances. But, in this case, when the qualifications should start ? September 2019 ? January 2020 ? The difference ? 3 Premier League and 1 SeriesA. And how to take into account the points won before these dates ? By counting them at 50% or not at all ?

Another option would be to start from scratch, for example, to start all over from the Dubai World Championships, with a Premier League per month, until April or May 2021, that is 5 or 6 tournaments. But it appears to be the least likely of all even if, in exceptional circumstances… Exceptional decision.

If the Olympic Games were to be held in the spring, this would not fundamentally change the problem but it would eliminate the hypothesis “we will start from scratch” and, above all, it would eventually postpone the start of the standing (April 2019 ?). Some continental championships could then be taken into account. Once the IOC decides on spring or summer, it would time to redesign the calendar. But, lesson of the day, we forget the Olympic standing formalized before the coronavirus pandemic. It is no longer relevant.

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