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Cancel the Tokyo Games

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on May 20, 2021 with No Comments

Every four years, the Olympics Games provide a sporting spectacle like no other. Not only do the sportspersons look forward to the games, but also the nations. For a simple reason, in a world beset by hatred there is no better unifying force like sports. Olympics being the best event since it allows humanity to come together, compete at a common platform for its dreams and chase goals.  The pandemic now threatens to wreck best laid plans and make a mockery of the world’s greatest spectacle. The Tokyo Olympics are now just over two months away and calls to dump the Games are gaining momentum with each passing day. Questions are being asked if this is the right time to conduct the Games, and let thousands assemble and compete in the face of the pandemic which is only getting worse. The world is looking at the host country to call for the cancellation or at least  postpone the games.

Why are the options available with Japan?  Why isn’t Japan talking about cancelling the Games? The answers perhaps are not that simple.

Obviously,  life matters.  A survey conducted in Japan over the weekend, showed that more than 80 percent of Japanese oppose hosting the virus-postponed Olympics this year. The weekend survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily found 43 percent of respondents want the Games cancelled, and 40 percent want a further postponement. The latest survey comes after Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency last Friday as the nation battles a fourth wave of virus infections.   The surge has put pressure on the country’s healthcare system, with medical professionals repeatedly warning about shortages and burnout.

Held every four years, Olympics were cancelled only thrice in its modern history — all due to wars.  The next Games on the global calendar are already next year, the Winter Games in February 2022, hosted by China in Beijing.  There is little doubt that Japan may not be prepared  to postpone the same.  Last time Japan hosted a Summer Olympics was in 1964 and at the time, they were seen as an important symbol for the country’s rehabilitation and rebuilding process after World War Two. And the games of 2021 too have a significance for Japan.  It does take a special importance as Japan has seen economic stagnation for a long time, there has been the tsunami and the nuclear disaster of Fukushima, so the Games could be  a symbolic revival of Japan.

The situation is not looking great in Japan. A coronavirus state of emergency has been extended in the capital Tokyo. Yet there’s been no word about cancelling the Games, despite both health experts and public opinion being stacked against them.

The contract between the International Olympics Committee and host city Tokyo is quiet upfront, and it only gives the option for the IOC to cancel, not for the host city.  That’s because the Olympic Games are the “exclusive property” of the IOC, and as the “owner” of the Games, it is the IOC that can terminate said contract. IOC will have to realize that that the safety of participants in the Games would be seriously threatened or jeopardized. Arguably, the pandemic is the biggest threat to the participants and others so associated with the games.  The Olympic charter also stipulates that the IOC should ensure “the health of the athletes” and promote “safe sports”, but despite all this, the IOC seems not much concerned about the participants. 

Japan can’t take the decision alone, the only realistic setting is Japan pulling the plug jointly with the IOC, staying within the framework of their contract. Also if the  Tokyo Olympics is cancelled, it would probably be the biggest insurance pay-out event of its kind. But nothing is more important than prevention. The world can’t afford another super spreader event.


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