Little went as planned in 2020. So, it should come as no surprise that the Tokyo 2020 Games rescheduled to begin July 23, 2021, are being questioned. According to a poll by Japan’s NHK, nearly 80% of respondents in early 2021 thought that the Games should be postponed or canceled. This is up from 71% in December and under 50% in October. It would be the first time the Olympics were canceled since World War II.
The cause of these growing numbers is the Japanese public’s concerns over their safety. The government’s official line is that the Games must go on, but there were media reports that the officials are not so sure. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) insists that the Games will go forward. There also appears to be a feeling that the Games cannot be postponed again with the 2024 summer Games in Paris fast approaching.
Would it be safe?
The Japanese people’s concern may be justified as the numbers of cases in Japan are just now surging to record levels after months of low numbers by western standards (4,200 deaths and 300,000 cases). The country’s vaccine rollout will not begin until February, and it will take months to vaccinate the country’s 125 million residents.
While it would be easy enough to change, the country has a travel ban on all international travel from outside at least until February. Elite athletes are currently not exempt from this ban. It also should be noted that the IOC deems it unrealistic for 10,000 athletes (with additional coaches and officials) from around the world to show up vaccinated.
Measures if Games do happen
Athletes may not be vaccinated, but they will be tested and tested often. There will likely be limited movement and a giant bubble over the Olympic Village, the venues and the media areas. Athletes could be told to leave once they finish competing, and they may be limited in who they can see while competing.
Big decisions to come soon
The Olympic Organizing Committee will announce a decision in February or March about allowing spectators to attend. There is no word at this time on when there would be the announcement for postponement or cancellation.
If canceled, the billions Japan spent would be wasted, and billions more in revenue would be lost. Moreover, the economic impact could be devastating for athletes and in sports federations worldwide, many of whom rely on the Games to generate much of their income for the year or more.