BILLINGS — Lockwood resident Bob Charette could see this day coming.
The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday it had decided to postpone the Summer Olympics in Tokyo “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”
The move, which came after days of various national committees asking for the IOC to postpone, was made due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
A statement issued by the IOC addressed “concern about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and what it is doing to people’s lives and the significant impact it is having on global athletes’ preparations for the Games.”
Charette, who has a long history of serving as a team leader for cultural-exchange wrestling teams visiting Japan and hosting Japanese wrestling teams, was to have served as part of the Japanese wrestling delegation.
In 1990, Charette first became involved in helping organize cultural-exchange wrestling dates with the Japanese. He cited friendships and relationships built in that time with him being asked to be part of the Japanese wrestling delegation at the Olympics.
“It was an honorable invitation to be a part of the staff given to me,” Charette said.
Charette, 67, said he agreed with the decision to postpone the Olympics.
“I was glad they did it for the welfare of all the athletes of the world. For their health,” Charette said. “I was glad they had postponed it. You can always fight another day.”
Last year, Charette visited Japan twice; once in March as a team leader for a youth wrestling team for boys ages 9-12 and the second time for the All-Japan Female Open in October. Many of the youth wrestlers were from Wyoming, Charette said, and the women’s team was comprised of wrestlers from all over the United States.
Charette said he planned to go to Japan again this year for the youth tournament and would have departed Monday, but that event was canceled two weeks ago. He did add that, as of now, the All-Japan Female Open is still scheduled for October, and said, “If it is safe, then we will go.”
It is understandable, Charette said, that there was hesitation before making the decision to postpone. According to an Associated Press report, 11,000 athletes from 200-plus countries were to participate. The Olympics were to begin July 24.
“I just think that this pandemic overwhelmed everybody,” he said. “I think everybody was in denial, hoping it wouldn’t happen.”
The statement from the IOC said the games will still be known as Tokyo 2020.
“The Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present,” the statement continued. “Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan.”
During his multiple trips to Japan the last few years as a team leader for wrestling competitions, Charette said he witnessed the construction of venues for the Olympics.
“I was able to see this whole thing progressing and I saw the buildings come up. It was really interesting,” he said.
Charette said he will still be a part of the Japanese wrestling delegation at the Olympics next year. He is serving in an unpaid position, saying it is an “honor and privilege” to be asked.
Charette said his duties will include “making sure the athletes are ready, that they haven’t forgotten anything, and that they are where they are supposed to be.”
Now Charette, like the rest of the world, looks forward to the day when life returns to normal and the coronavirus pandemic is under control. Charette says he feels blessed for the opportunity that awaits him.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s the greatest games on Earth,” he said. “The premier people from across the world are testing themselves versus the best. It will be a blessing to just go there and be part of it.”
Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL
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