With the announcement by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed to the Summer of 2021 back in March, it was hard to imagine things getting bleaker for the world’s premier sporting event.
But it appears we may be headed that direction.
Tuesday brought a new threat from the novel coronavirus when Japan Medical Association president, Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura, stated the games would only be held if virus infections rates were under control worldwide.
“Unless an effective vaccine is developed, I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year,” Yokokura told reporters in Tokyo Tuesday.
While three Olympics have been scrapped in the past, albeit because World War I and II, it would be a first to not proceed due to an act of God.
If Yokokura’s prediction becomes reality, it would absolutely be an overreaction. The athletes that train to compete at the Olympics are some of the healthiest and physically fit humans in history. While they would not be the first to receive vaccinations, there are other avenues the Olympics must explore before completely writing them off.
Infection rates for those aged 10-39 being approximately 0.6% and a death rate of those without any pre-existing conditions being around 0.9%.
Yes, Japan has the oldest population and concentration of individuals above 70 years old in the world. But continuing a mandated quarantine of at-risk populations and secluding the athletes who could be asymptomatic carriers and incorporating other stringent policies should do the trick.
Look at how the major leagues in the United States are handling this with optimism.
They all expect to play this season, even without spectators, and are devising ways for participants to be quarantined and tested regularly.
Who is to say the Olympics could not achieve this?
It does not seem like a hard concept to grasp.
Not only would a complete cancellation cause even more stress to the over 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes, who have already put their lives on hold, but will cost Japan, sponsors, and ticket-holders billions.
Current estimates have set the one-year postponement as costing Japan $1.865 billion to $5.844 billion alone with $2.74 billion in sponsorship being at risk and $783 million in tickets going to waste.
The latter is especially crucial as the IOC has strict clauses that may allow them not to refund them.
Thankfully, Yokokura is not responsible for the Japan Olympics. Instead, former prime minister and current president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori commented,
“This is a gamble for mankind. If the world triumphs over the virus and we can hold the Olympics, then our Games will be many times more valuable than any past Olympics.”
While Mori still is not ruling out a complete cancellation, he remains optimistic and open to ideas to ensure the worst-case scenario does not play out.
That is the leadership needed in these tumultuous times alongside transparency and a commitment to getting as close to normal as we can.
If we cancel the 2021 Summer Olympics, we might as well cancel the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Maybe all the nations can finally agree on something and pool their money together to build an island in the middle of nowhere that the Olympics can be held at every couple of years.
Or maybe sports as we know it will die off and we will be forced to consider League of Legends, chess, and spelling bees actual sports.
God, I hope we do not get to that point.