If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) tried to instill a sense of positivity among the athletes’ fraternity on Tuesday by saying that there is no need for any “drastic measures” about Tokyo Olympics, it did not quite have the desired effect.
The announcement came on a day when the football world announced two justified decisions: while Uefa postponed the Euro 2020 till next year, South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL also postponed its flagship Copa America to next year – waiting for the world to tide over the Coronavirus pandemic. While the Uefa’s decision was a no-brainer given the fact that several of European powerhouses in the game have been worst hit by the virus, Copa America also decided against taking any chances.
As the enormity of the logistics of a Summer Olympics makes it virtually impossible to postpone the event to a later date of the same year – cancellation remains as the only caption while there were unconfirmed media reports that the IOC were looking at a possible window in 2022. While the last has not certainly been heard on the subject, the athletes’ voice is likely to eventually prevail towards hosting of the Games on schedule from July 24.
‘‘There are a lot more things important to life than a golf tournament now,” said Tiger Woods, the iconic golfer on the cancellation of a slew of golf tournaments round the world, echoing the sentiments of several leading sportspersons across disciplines. The menace of the virus has not spared even the sporting community – and it stood out in a stark image that went out on Tuesday – Toshiro Muto, the CEO of Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee and his team with face masks and a grim visage as they announced the scaling down of public participation of the Olympics torch run.
“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” tweeted Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, who was scheduled to hand the ceremonial flame to Japanese officials before the Greek leg of the torch relay was scrapped over COVID-19. “You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in 4 months,” she said.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Stefanidi. “What about team sports that have to train together? What about swimming? What about gymnastics that they touch the same objects?
“There is zero consideration of the risk they are putting us in right now.”
Joining the issue was British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the world heptathlon champion, who minced no words against the IOC for telling athletes to train “as best they can”, saying it was at odds with stringent government health measures.
“I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine which is impossible,” she wrote on Twitter.
“It’s difficult (to) approach the season when everything has changed in the lead-up apart from the ultimate deadline,” added the Briton.
The difference between Olympics and other standalone sports events are the qualifiers across all disciplines play a crucial role in the build-up to the Games, and media reports says that only only 57 percent of athletes have booked their places so far.
It will be another riddle that the IOC will have to solve at the earliest if they are to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics on schedule.
Tokyo’s ‘missing’ Olympics
If the Toko Olympics is eventually postponed or dropped from the cycle because of the Coronavirus pandemic – history says this is not the first time the capital city of Japan will miss out on the Games.
It was during Japan’s military aggression in Asia which forced the annulment of what became known as the “Missing Olympics” in 1940 after the Games were switched to Helsinki before finally being scrapped because of World War II.
Tokyo officials originally placed a bid for the 1940 Games to show the city had recovered from the devastating 1923 earthquake. Japan had framed the 2020 Olympics as the ‘Recovery Games’ – a chance to show the country is back on its feet after the catastrophic 2011 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
Tokyo’s 1940 bid was spearheaded by Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern judo and first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee, who stressed the importance of bringing the Games to Asia for the first time.