Aaron Hostetler Sports Editor
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic posed a dilemma for the 2020 Summer Olympics, forcing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the games until 2021. The major sporting competitions were scheduled to take place this year in Tokyo, Japan. According to Time magazine, this year’s Summer Olympic Games were planned to start on July 24th, and to continue until August 9th. This short timeframe would have consisted of 339 nonstop events across 33 different sports like swimming, track and field, golf, rugby, and even some new additions such as skateboarding, baseball/softball, surfing, climbing and karate. It was planned that Tokyo would hold this year’s Olympics ever since 2013, and it would have been their first time hosting since 1964. Tokyo was preparing heavily for this major event with a budget of at least $25 million, and even went to the extent of renovating their existing facilities and building new ones to stage the games. Everybody was preparing for a successful and entertaining year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Nobody could have predicted what would happen instead.
Within the past two months, the COVID-19 illness (coronavirus) has spread rapidly across the globe. As governments worldwide are making their best efforts to contain the spread of the virus, it is no question that this crisis is affecting everyone. Schools are now going online, and almost every major event that involves large gatherings of people have either been postponed or cancelled. This includes the cancellation of sports seasons, and almost every major competition being put on hold until further notice.
This posed a problem for those involved in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Although the original scheduled time for the games are still a few months away, there is no telling how this crisis will have evolved by then. Due to the fact that the Olympics involve many participants from all around the world, and that almost all of them are being affected by this catastrophe, the IOC has faced immense pressure about what to do regarding the current circumstances forcing them to make their final decision to postpone the games.
This was a difficult decision for the IOC to make due to its impact on the global sporting community. This also puts an end to the IOC’s lengthy decision making process, as they have spent recent weeks discussing alternate solutions to the problem. According to ABC News, there were never any plans to cancel the games, which has only ever happened in 1916, 1940, and 1944 because of the World Wars. However, many reports have stated that the Olympics would be postponed even before the final decision was made. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that “If it is difficult to hold the games in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable.” Although postponing the games seems to be the most ideal solution, there are still many other factors to consider. USA Today Sports has received information from IOC President Thomas Bach about the complex challenges and possible ripple effects of postponing the games. This includes the problem of the millions of hotel nights that have already been booked for the games, as well as the modification of the sports calendars of the 11,000 athletes who were planned to participate. However, these are all necessary steps to take in order to preserve the safety of all athletes, and to ensure that the games will still continue to its full extent when the crisis has hopefully died down.
Even if the games continued at its current scheduled time, there is a considerable health risk to spectators, athletes, and everybody else involved with the games. A report from USA Today’s Sports For the Win states that a former Olympic swimmer from South Africa named Cameron van der Burgh has been struggling with the virus for many weeks. Van der Burgh won the gold medal for the 100 meter Breaststroke at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and has since tweeted that the coronavirus was “by far the worst virus” he had ever faced. He therefore urged the IOC to take preventive measures very seriously, especially when considering the health of competing Olympic athletes.
USA Today Sports has also reported that Thomas Bach has recently reiterated his belief that it would be premature to make an immediate decision about the games, especially because of the uncertain future about how the virus will continue to evolve. This was part of the reason why it took so long for the decision to be made. On Sunday, March 22nd, Bach set a deadline for the announcement about the games, saying that the final decision will be made within the next four weeks. However, it is good that everyone has made a final decision that will work to the benefit of everybody.
These are very difficult and uncertain times for everybody who is involved with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as many others worldwide. We can only hope that the decision to postpone the games was worth it, especially in consideration to the health of the athletes, and to the benefit of sports communities worldwide.