Sat | Mar 28, 2020

Hubert Lawrence | Sports feast on tap for 2022

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2020 | 12:18 AM
Jamaica’s Nathon Allen (centre) embarks on the second leg in the men’s 4x400m relay final after receiving the baton from Akeem Bloomfield (back centre) at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, October 6, 2019.
Jamaica’s Nathon Allen (centre) embarks on the second leg in the men’s 4x400m relay final after receiving the baton from Akeem Bloomfield (back centre) at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

The way things look now, 2022 will be a great year for sports fans. By then, everyone should have got over the 2020 shutdown forced by the spread of the novel coronavirus, and once the 2021 Olympics are held, parity will be restored. Moreover, because of the long wait, those Olympics will be a glorious celebration.

However, 2022 could be even better. A few weeks ago in this space, there was a hint at what awaits us.

“Fans might just love a 2022 sporting calendar that includes the Winter Olympics in February, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics in the middle, and a FIFA World Cup in November and December,” is what this columnist said on February 27.

That guess wasn’t quite right. World Athletics, the body formerly known as the IAAF, has deferred its biennial World Championships to make space for the Games in 2021. Instead, the Worlds will arrive in the summer of 2022.

The virus has pushed everything back and sports fans suffer twice as much. Not only must they be very careful not to contract or spread the virus, but they have been robbed of their regular doses of sporting entertainment. They understand the gravity of the health challenges, but at the same time, they can’t snooze their pain with television coverage of events like the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships, the Carifta Games, the Penn Relays, the World Under-20 Championships, National Championships around the world, and the Games.

BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD

Thankfully, once the virus is brought under control, the future is bright. This year’s shutdown is for the best reasons. Health is paramount.

The adjustment to the sporting calendar allows us to enjoy the prospects of a diverse and exciting 2022. The Winter Olympics go to Beijing in February 2022 and the FIFA Men’s World Cup should start on November 21, in Qatar. Though other spectacular events like the Commonwealth Games, set for 2022, the World Championships will fit snugly into the calendar like a crown jewel.

If you’re a sports fan, it could hardly get better than that. Throw in the tennis Grand Slam of Open tournaments in Australia, France, Wimbledon, and the US, the NBA, the top European football leagues and any other of your favourite sports, and 2022 could be a delight.

There is just one potential spanner in the works. The shutdown is disrupting the World Economic Outlook and a depression might restrict the ability of sponsors to back events, athletes and teams. Therefore, an early resolution of the health crisis is in everyone’s interest.

On top of that, the delay for the Olympics will have to be carefully handled by athletes and coaches. Veterans will be under pressure to perform a year later than they planned. However, someone like Renaud Lavillenie, France’s 2012 Olympic pole vault gold medallist, might view the delay as a reprieve. Out unexpectedly early at last year’s World Championships, the 33-year-old Lavillenie might be able to gather himself for one last big effort to deny the likes of 2017 and 2019 world champion Sam Kendricks, and Armand Duplantis, the Swede who has twice raised the world indoor record in 2020.

One trusted voice has offered a practical reason that may have contributed to the postponement, noting that the health challenge would have limited chances to seek Olympic qualifying marks, and even if we were all clear in July, thin fields wouldn’t do the Games justice. On top of that, the willingness of World Athletics to move its flagship tournament shows how important the Olympics still are.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised local and international track and field since 1980.