By Arnie Leshin
From 123 days to 2021, that’s what the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games has to face after finally closing down the world’s biggest sporting event, a global extravaganza that’s been cemented into the calendar for more then a century.
It was something the International Olympic Committee (IOC) didn’t want to do, but with the would-wide threat of cononavirus pandemic forcing other sports events to close down, the every 4-year event did the same. Not only did the IOC fear the spread of this microscopic virus, but countries like Australia and Canada had already sent word that they would not and could not send teams to Japan for an Olympics that would start in July. That notice had the IOC concerned about other counties dropping out.
Other key delegations that had pushed for a postponement include World Athletics, the international federation for the centerpiece sport of the Olympics, along with Olympic committees in Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, and United States Swimming and Track and Field, which combine to form about a third of of the U.S. team, also want a new date.
Athletes also grew louder in their request for postponement, and a track group called the Athletes Association joined another athletic group, Global Athlete, in pressing the IOC to act. Many athletes have served notice that they were it was becoming very difficult to train, to practice, even keep in shape. And the IOC itself said that more than 4,000 track and field athletes responded to a survey, and 87 percent said that their training and other necessary things had been adversely affected by the coronavirus.
And so the IOC had to decide on a postponement to 2021, with it still being known as the 2020 Olympics. Before that there was talk of cancelled the games, but the postponement had much more support. The length of postponement became a major problem challenge for the IOC. If the Olympics went on, they were scheduled to begin July 24.
The postponement now brings about new issues that include the available venues in Japan, the disruption to the international sports calendar during which whatever new date is chosen, the resetting of qualifying procedures and insurance considerations, for both the IOC and the Japanese organizing committee hold massive logistic issues involved in postponing the games.
One of the glaring reasons they took their time making this decision was because this is an event that, like other countries hosting the Olympics, Japan spent years building venues, spent billions in doing so, had many injured workers, and will now have to plant security to watch over everything that involves the Olympics, and that will be until next year rolls around, and hopefully the threat of COVIC-19 will be toned down by then.
The Tokyo Games were slated for 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries, and at a reported cost of $28 billion. Now they have been pushed into 2021 on dates that have to be determined.
Yes, it is heartbreaking for so many people, whether in Japan or anywhere else on the planet. The athletes, coaches, staff, fans, those that were looking forward to being in Tokyo, or watching three weeks of it on television, or reading about the games in the newspapers and on the internet.
Only World War I and World War II have forced the Olympics to be cancelled, and that was in 1916, 1940 and 1944. There were other viruses (the Zika virus in 2016), an act of terrorism (the killing of Israelis in Munich in 1972), boycotts in 1980 and 1984, the frequent threat of war or even actual world war has managed to postpone
the games and push them into an odd-numbered year.
But this is different. Now its a virus that is wrecking havoc with daily life around the globe. The IOC had been criticized for the long-held, dug-in refusal to change the dates, and it was becoming more inevitable with each passing day.
But now it has announced the message athletes deserved to hear. They know or they hope it doesn’t become four years, one year will do.