This move was necessary and historic
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
Since the coronavirus has been upgraded from an outbreak to a pandemic, many stores have been closed. The streets are almost empty, community gatherings, as well as arts and culture performances are either cancelled, delayed, or shown online. Even major sporting events are cancelled or delayed to next year. One of the major sporting events that was at risk of being delayed is the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. It got a lot of attention due to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) and the Japanese government’s handling of the uncertain future for the games. During the early stages of the pandemic—when news spread that the virus could be contained—there was optimism that Tokyo 2020 would go ahead as scheduled.
After passengers in the Diamond Princess left the cruise ship at a port in Yokohama, COVID-19 cases jumped in Japan, matching the surge around the world. This caused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to recommend suspending major events for two weeks—and this recommendation was extended as the coronavirus was reclassified as a pandemic.
As more of the major sporting events were either cancelled or delayed due to the coronavirus, the IOC stated that the games would go ahead—and even lit the Olympic Torch without a public viewing.
The decision led to an outpouring of calls from the Global Athlete union, as well as from individuals, including former Canadian gold medal hockey player and IOC member Hayley Wickenheiser calling their decision to move forward with the games “insensitive and irresponsible.” Even if the coronavirus pandemic ended before the 2020 games begin, the athletes stated that there would not be enough time to train. Indeed, it is difficult to prepare for an Olympic gold medal performance if the pandemic had ended just two months before the games began, the athletes may not perform at their best.
Also, many training facilities are closed to make sure that the virus does not spread, and it would not be a great idea to have them open with a lot of people in the same building. Because many Olympic qualifying events were cancelled, many countries were unable to properly assemble a team for the games. In addition, a risk factor persists for the world community if anyone in Tokyo transmits the virus and a spectator or athlete were to bring it home with them.
After pressure from the athletes the IOC called for an emergency meeting to decide the future of the 2020 Olympics. The criticism was so heavy that it led to IOC member Richard Pound leaking to USA Today that the games would be postponed. A day later, IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed it. This is the first time that an Olympic Games has been postponed. He said that the Olympic flame represents hope and when the games happen on the new date of July 23, 2021, it will ideally offer “a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Tokyo 2020 being delayed allows the athletes to train for it longer at least. And it will be safer for us to go to the Tokyo games next summer. I support this decision made by the IOC and believe we should all support them in this decision.