After a tumultuous month of postponements and season adjustments, things seemed to be calming down a bit as the community hunkered down amid shelter in place and social distancing orders. Suddenly, the cancellation of multiple Sanctionals and one big tweet from the CrossFit Games came crashing down like a flying elbow drop from Macho Man Randy Savage. With nothing on the horizon until June when the Rogue Invitational takes things online, one big question remains that could drastically alter how the rest of the season unfolds.
What will the 2020 CrossFit Games look like?
So far there has been little in the way of clues as to how the Games could change course. Dave Castro stated via podcast interview that the Games team was evaluating all possible options and that the time to make a decision was closing in. In the meantime three of the original Sanctionals — the French Throwdown, Lowlands Throwdown and Rogue Invitational (now online, no Games invite) — and another on the way have canceled their 2020 sanctioned events and have begun looking towards the 2021 season. Then this happened:
A definitive statement of this nature from CrossFit Inc. is huge. The remaining Sanctionals tentatively planned for this season are undoubtedly moving forward with the hopes that the Games take place and this type of statement should assuage some of the worry about the season. The tweet still begs the question of how the Games will take place, and it’s worth looking critically at the other options on the table.
Option 1: Location change.
Moving the 2020 Games would most likely be towards the bottom of the list of options for the Games if push came to shove, but there are a handful of options that could be used such as the Ranch in Aromas.
- The Good: There is the obvious benefit of actually having the competition take place in person and keeping the continuity of the CrossFit Games’ history intact, but if the Games move to an entirely new location, that Opens up a new host of possibilities for programming and a new audience if fans are actually allowed to spectate. For nostalgia’s sake, hosting the Games at the Ranch would be a fun alternative that harkens back to the sports roots in a time of dire need. Current Games qualifiers would get to see their CrossFit Games dreams realized in an entirely unique fashion that wouldn’t necessarily cheapen the experience given the circumstances. Athletes like Mat Fraser, and Tia-Clair Toomey would be able to continue their legacy through live competition and not let a year of their primes go by the wayside.
- The Bad: The cost associated with moving an event such as the CrossFit Games could be immense depending on when and where the Games take place. CrossFit Inc. has spent money to improve the infrastructure of the Alliant Energy Center to fit the needs of the Games and there would be need to some reworking of the contract to ensure that their time in Madison is fulfilled and there is a full return on investment. Moving the Games would likely mean that geographically some fans, volunteers, and staff might not be able to make the Games due to finances and travel expenses which puts a strain on the bottom line. There’s also a distinct possibility that if the Games move and are allowed to take place, that there could still be restrictions in place locally that restrict fans and spectators from being able to enjoy the Games as they have in the past.
Option 2: Postponement.
Moving the Games back from the original date would require a handful of other factors to fall into place as well. The original date of the Games falls during a relatively dead time of year for the city. Looking at the schedule for the Alliant Energy Center and for other major events in the city, one week stands out as a possibility: September 21-27.
- The Good: That entire week is actually wide open for the Alliant Energy Center and all of its various venues and buildings. There is a Lynyrd Skynyrd (no Freebird!) farewell tour concert on Saturday, September 19 in the Coliseum, and then nothing until the World Dairy Expo takes over on Tuesday, September 29. Additionally, this date would not clash with a University of Wisconsin Badgers Football home game — they’re at a neutral site against Michigan that week. The influx of people to the city of Madison for a Badgers football game is ten-fold compared to the CrossFit Games, and CrossFit fans would be on the losing end as far as hotels and other lodging is concerned. The date also sits a full eight weeks after the initial proposed date, increasing the likelihood that another major sport like college or pro football has cracked the post-coronavirus egg, and any state or federal imposed orders have been eased by then.
- The Bad: Even with the football team on the road, the school would be back in session at UW meaning another 45,000 college students will be back in town, and the dormitories would be filled. During the CrossFit Games, the dorms are typically used as a housing option for the volunteers, judges, and various crews that are crucial to the Games operation. The cost is extremely cheap compared to the other options available around town, and quite frankly the dorm option is what makes the entire Games trip financially possible for a lot of the volunteer staff. Losing that could be a huge blow to the volunteer and staffing numbers. The 2020 Ryder Cup — one of golf’s biggest events — is also taking place at Whistling Straits Golf Course just two hours away that weekend, and events of that magnitude tend to drive up costs for travel and lodging in the surrounding areas as well. This new date would also be just a few weeks away from the start of the 2021 Open, but at this stage, its likely the CrossFit community would find a way to manage.
Option 3: Go online.
Switching the format of the Games from a live competition to an online format would probably be a last resort for the CrossFit Games team. The Rogue Invitational has moved online to ensure that their 2020 event takes place, but the implications and purpose of their event are much different, and Rogue forfeited their Games invite for the winner in the process.
- The Good: This may be a bit abstract, but in order to pull off an online competition worthy of handing out the title of “Fittest on Earth,” it would require some serious creativity, and technical ingenuity on the part of the CrossFit Games team – the likes of which we haven’t really seen before. Anything less would bring into question the validity of the test, the claim, and whether or not the move online was actually worth it. If they actually were able to pull it off and check all the boxes, then it would reset the game board for what’s possible for online competitions and put the CrossFit Games back in the driver’s seat as far as innovation goes in the sport. Financially it could be a plus as well if CrossFit’s team handling their contracts are able to push everything to 2021 and they can save money on the expenditures from holding a live competition.
- The Bad: As previously mentioned, moving online could ultimately be a stain on the CrossFit Games history books as a year that was better off being put out to pasture. What does an athlete like Mat Fraser – who is on the brink of history with a potential fifth straight title- stand to gain through the online format besides a nice paycheck? The quality control of the online format is extremely difficult and the rash of penalties and appeals from this year’s Open alone stand as proof. Now imagine a similar situation with stakes as high as the Games. The Games stand to crown the fittest on earth, and a blunder in accomplishing this primary goal would be a black eye.
The reality: The future of the 2020 Games isn’t just in the hands of CrossFit Inc. The city of Madison, the Alliant Energy Center, and any organization involved in making events happen in any other location have influence as well. A representative from the Madison Area Sports Commission revealed to the Morning Chalk Up that as of the beginning of April, no talks of canceling or postponing the CrossFit Games have taken place with them or the Alliant Energy Center team.
In fact, the CrossFit Games are still listed on the events schedule calendar for the Alliant Energy Center — and after monitoring the calendar in recent weeks — none of the proposed events during the month of August or September have been postponed or canceled. Things could change quickly though, and just yesterday Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers announced the submission of an application to FEMA to turn the Alliant Energy Center into an alternate care facility for COVID-19 cases. We’re not alone in hoping that the tides will eventually turn the other direction and that in a few months the Alliant Energy Center will no longer be needed to host the sick, and can return to playing host to the fittest.
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