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Sunday, July 21, 2024

2021 Olympic Games are in limbo

With no detailed plan and time ticking fast, Olympic organizers must decide what they want to do for this years’ planned games—if it even happens

As COVID-19 continues to hit many places hard, many hope that the vaccine will help resume some sense of normalcy back into our lives like they were pre-pandemic. With questions surrounding availability and rollouts, it seems as though that may take some time to figure out. Time that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the country of Japan simply do not have.

Scheduled for a start date of July 23, the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo are now again in a limbo. The games were originally going to take place in the summer of 2020, but COVID-19 put a halt to their plans, as it did for everything else At the time of the rescheduling, the IOC and Japan had hoped for more clarity and a normal Olympics, as COVID-19 would be a thing of the past. But as we know even with the vaccine now being available, it seems like that will not be a viable option.

In mid-January, the City of Tokyo and its surrounding areas underwent a state of emergency due to a high number of COVID-19 cases, as was the case with many other countries as well. Because of this, rumors began to swirl that these games would be canceled altogether, but as it seems, the IOC will fight it as long as they can. 

“We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo,” said IOC chief Thomas Bach. “This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful.” 

The question remains whether this is even salvageable, as there are many factors to keep in mind as they remain adamant in their stance to hold these games. The first would be the protocols set in place for the athletes and countries coming in. Would athletes have to quarantine? How often would they have to take tests? What measures will be in place to ensure the safety of at least 10,000 athletes? Not to mention, many countries currently have strict immigration and travel restrictions that might interfere with traveling to the Olympics. The logistics and complex plan has yet to be seen, but the playbook the IOC has set out gives people hope—or at least something to keep them busy. 

In a 32 page outline of the preliminary plan, the IOC, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Tokyo 2020 released what is expected of everyone in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Although it does not have many details, it is the first major piece of news released other than assurances that the games will happen. 

The IOC stated that neither the athletes nor attendees will have to be vaccinated or quarantined upon arriving in Japan for the games. They will, however, enforce strict guidelines to follow on how much contact they have with others and how much they go out. Masks will be worn at all times except eating, drinking and sleeping and temperature checks will be administered before entering buildings. There was a mention about spectators, but whether there will be people in attendance remains to be seen. That answer is expected to be known in the spring, as they have the option of full, limited or no attendance. 

Aside from that news, there was no new or important information in the playbook. The very vague outline brought the IOC much criticism, but it seems like they are trying to do the best they can to hold these games. They will have to do much more than just that, as public support has seen a drastic drop. A poll taken of Japanese citizens shows that 61% of them are against holding these games, calling for the Olympics to be postponed or canceled altogether, as they see it as not important enough to go through the trouble. 

“I do not understand why they want to have the Olympics,” said Mari Miyamoto, a Tokyo resident. “We are constantly being told that we cannot meet up with other people or see friends and family, that we have to always sanitize our hands and be careful whenever we go out. But now they insist that it’s perfectly safe to hold an event that is going to bring thousands of people together in a confined space. To me, that makes no sense.”

The IOC and Japan are working closely together to try and make this happen. As it is well-known, the Olympics have never been a profitable event. The losses by these host cities are massive, but most are willing to take the risk for a potential future boom. This, however, has flipped Japan upside down. With the massive losses already taken by postponing it, Statista predicts losses of 4.5 trillion Japanese yen, which is equivalent to over $42 billion U.S. dollars, if the event is canceled altogether. The IOC has already said that if it is not held this summer, it will be canceled as there is not a possibility for rescheduling, so it is now or never. 

“We are holding the Olympics and Paralympics this summer,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. “I am determined to achieve the games as a proof of human victory against the pandemic, a symbol of global solidarity and to give hope and courage around the world.”

With less than five months remaining until the games are scheduled to start, time is moving fast for the organizers of the event. In this current era, nothing about the future can be assured, creating an almost impossible scenario where the Olympic Games are a smooth sailing. If it is canceled, it will be the first canceled since World War II, which will make it the most unprecedented Olympics in history, which says a lot considering the amount of major events that have happened in past games. The organizers are set on completing these games, but there is a good chance the pandemic will not allow it. A lot of work is left to be done, but time is running out quickly with no sure answer in sight. 
Written by: Omar Navarro— sports@theaggie.org


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