By Aris Barkas and John Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2020 Olympic Games are scheduled to be held between July 25 and August 5 at Tokyo, Japan. However, the coronavirus pandemic hangs a questionable status on the Olympics taking place according to schedule. Basketball is among the sports negatively impacted by the threat of marquee players missing out on the action at the highest level of international basketball.
Basketball in Europe and worldwide is locked down in the effort to prevent the COVID-19 spreading. Provided health safety is ultimately secured, the NBA is considering extending the 2019-20 season deep in the summer, which can be a likely outcome for several leagues all around Europe as well.
Missing players in Tokyo
The coronavirus in the USA prompts official recommendations on events with over 50 people to be postponed or canceled for the next two months. Keeping the best-case scenario in mind, NBA officials hope for a mid-to-late June return and thus for a champion to be crowned in late July or early August.
The established NBA competition format will likely be adjusted for a suitable fit within the above timetable. At the same time, even in this situation, the playoffs will be stretched deep into the summer and collide with the dates scheduled for the basketball tournament in the Olympic Games.
It’s safe to assume that Team USA will not feature its top NBA stars. The same goes for the year-in, year-out rising number of international NBA players that represent national teams set for the Olympic Games. International players like Ricky Rubio, Evan Fournier, and Marc Gasol, just to name a few.
Hosts Japan, France, and Spain from Europe, Argentina, and the USA from the Americas, Iran from Asia, Australia from Oceania and Nigeria from Africa have punched in their Olympic tickets. Four more spots are available via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments that leads us to our next question mark.
Adjusting the qualifying tournaments
Victoria, Split, Kaunas, and Belgrade are scheduled to host the four qualifying tournaments between 23 and 28 of June. Various NBA players as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic were questionable to take part even before the coronavirus outbreak. At this point, the tournaments themselves are at risk. One major 3X3 qualification event for the Tokyo Olympics has already been postponed, the Bengaluru tournament in India, which was supposed to be held between March 18 to 22.
FIBA is expected to discuss during the next few days the situation around 2020 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments and will potentially determine their fate under the developing circumstances. Any outcome from postponing the scheduled games to awarding the remaining Olympic berths to four national teams might be on the table. However, at this point, the big question which can be the key to everything else remains the possibility of postponement of the Olympics.
So far all IOC officials have denied such a possibility, but the clock is ticking and things that are far more important than sports can dictate the outcome.