By Arnie Leshin
The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics have hope. It’s four months away and there is no May deadline that was initially reported to cancel the games, and there’s confidence the event will go ahead.
This news comes despite sports coming to a virtual standstill globally amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Olympic officials had originally set an end-of-May deadline to cancel the games, but a new report by another official said he remains confident that the event will go on even though Dick Pound, a former International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president informed the Associated Press last month that the end of May loomed as a possible deadline for the IOC to make a call on the Tokyo Olympics.
But John Coates, a new IOC vice president and head of the Australian Olympic Committee, told AP in a television interview from Switzerland that the IOC didn’t recognize the deadline and he thought Pound had backed away from it, too.
“Its never been the IOC’s position”, Coates told the media, “it was Dick’s idea. There are four months to go and we are still scheduled to start on the 24th of July.”
The usual Olympic torch relay ceremony in Greece, with the lighting of a cauldron by a torchbearer, was held recently in the Greek town of Sparta. That’s a good sign that the actual Olympics might be next, although that had little to do with the threat of infections around the world. That’s the problem that these Olympics face.
More than 170,000 people have been infected and 6,900 killed in the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms for most, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or people with existing health problems. More than 75,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China where the outbreak started late last year.
Though China still has the most infections, a dozen other countries have more than a thousand cases, mostly in Europe.
In Australia the government announced the mandatory two-week self isolation on all people now arriving in the country. This latest restriction included bans of gatherings of more than 500 people. This came in the wake of the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, as well as the suspension of sporting events and large-scale gatherings in parts of the world affected by this virus outbreak.
This has caused postponements and uncertainty for qualifying in some Olympic sports events, although the IOC and Tokyo organizers have consistently said the games will go ahead as scheduled.
Said Coats: “The difficulty for those who have qualified or will qualify is they won’t get any more international competition, and that some countries might have to base selections on time trails or previous performances.”
As for athletes traveling to Japan from affected countries, Coats added that some national Olympic committees were already preparing.
The word is that the Chinese are probably the best organized. They are in various parts of Europe and are bringing them all together in a university in Paris where they will be fully contained. The numbers are about 600, and they will straight from confinement there, straight into Japan. They will not put anyone on an airplane who has got coronavirus, and they are all basically in serious lock-down.
A month after these Olympics would start, the International Paralympics are slated to begin Aug. 25.
Who knows, the Toyko Summer Olympics might be the only sports to be shown on TV, and ditto for the Paralympics.