The Olympics are the latest victim of the Covid-19 coronavirus after it was announced that this year’s summer games in Tokyo will be pushed back to next year. Tuesday’s decision came just four months before the opening ceremony was to be held at the brand-new National Stadium in Tokyo which would feature 11,000 athletes from 206 participating countries and territories. This is the first time in the 124-year history of the modern games that a health crisis has caused a delay. Previously, three games had been cancelled — Berlin 1916 due to World War I, and Tokyo 1940 and London 1944 due to World War II.
The move was not unexpected. Despite Japan having invested $12 billion in arranging the event, thousands of athletes around the world were worried about their personal health amid the prospect of as one the biggest international events in the world being held at a time like this. If anything, it was a surprise that it took this long for the announcement to come. All major international sporting events scheduled for this year have already either been cancelled or delayed. Even a vast majority of Japanese people supported delaying the games, despite the added economic blow.
As much as athletic wear manufacturers and sports pundits may try to convince us that sports are life, they are wrong. Public safety must always take precedent. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach admitted as much on Tuesday, saying, “Sport is not the most important thing right now, preserving human life is.” He also expressed some hope given that organisers are hoping the coronavirus crisis will be over by the time the games roll around next summer. “This Olympic flame will be the light at the end of this tunnel,” Bach said. Athletes have echoed the same opinion, noting that the health and safety of millions of people takes precedent over personal or national glory.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2020.