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09 May, 2021
Uncertainties have almost become part of our lives whilst growing concerns leading up-to the conduct of the Olympic Games almost a regular feature. Construction delays, preparatory & regulatory hurdles et al have long become the norm. However, with the Tokyo Olympics of 2020, delays and uncertainties have been of a different kind.
Will the XXII Olympics, actually take place or will it be the first time since World War 2, that we will see the scrapping of the quadrennial event altogether?
Although the organizers remain hopeful of the conduct of the games, the Japanese public remains unsure of the viability of the games in these calamitous times. With less than 75 days to the D-Day, the future of the Games remains as doubtful as it always been and the certainty that they will actually go-ahead per the revised timelines, remains hazy at best.
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020, led to the postponement of the Games from its original timeframe, but another postponement is neither viable nor possible. Either the Games happen, or they won’t. There’s no room nor appetite for any further postponement. And currently, there’s no telling which way it is likely to be.
Sunday’s Athletics Test event saw massive protests from the locals, who believe that public health is being overlooked in favour of the huge economic costs that come with the possible cancellation of the games. As one games volunteer put it, “It’s a recipe for disaster!”
“I am very scared for the country and very scared for the people of Japan. It is dangerous,” added the individual.
On the other end of the spectrum though are the athletes, organizers, politicians and the various heads of sports and Olympic committees from across the globe. Lord Sebastian Coe, the head of the World Athletics remains hopeful that the games would actually become a beacon of hope and optimism in these dark and difficult times that the world has been experiencing. Speaking at the closed-door test event, he expressed his confidence that the games will actually go ahead and will eventually have a profound impact on the world.
"I think that these Games will leave a strong lasting legacy, not just for Japan but at a time when the world is coming to terms with some pretty difficult and harrowing months," Coe added.
Even as Japan remains relatively insulated from the corona virus pandemic, with 10,000 deaths compared to the hundreds of thousands in some of the other countries, the slow progress of the vaccination program and the possibility of a post-games escalation of infections has kept up the public opposition to the conduct of the games.
An online petition entitled, “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to Protect Our Lives,” has garnered over 300,000 signatures and the numbers are only growing. Meanwhile, some of Japan’s leading sporting figures also remain sceptical with Tennis star Naomi Osaka calling for a continued and in-depth discussion on the viability of the games going ahead.
“Of course I want the Olympics to happen, but I think there's so much important stuff going on, especially in the past year. For me, I feel if its putting the lives of people at risk… then definitely there should be a discussion,” added Osaka.
The PM of Japan, has promised to accelerate the inoculation drive that could help the conduct of the games. But the opposition in the country will be hard to look past before making the final decision. And the decision is not likely to be the easiest for whoever it is going to be making it. In addition to the economic cost, the fact that the cancellation could spell the crushing of the dreams of a generation of athletes who may have trained their whole lives for just this event is something that isn’t easy to brush aside.
So, which way are we going to see the tide turn eventually? Well, your guess is as good as mine. The world continues to see unexpected changes almost on a weekly basis. So a two month timeframe is a long time away right now. How things unfold over the next 30-days could eventually decide the fate of the Olympics in all likelihood. If the cases continue to surge across the globe and in Japan, there is very little possibility of being able to conduct the games in a safe environment. And if it’s not a safe environment, is it really worth taking the risk? The Japanese public clearly don’t think so.