The 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which were set to take place in Tokyo in late July to early August, is predicted to be the next major sporting event to be postponed due to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic.
While no official decision has yet been made, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), an influential voice in the trajectory of the games, has recently put its weight behind postponing the games. In a statement, the committee said that players’ responses were crucial in making the decision.
Many athletes concluded that “even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner.”
Other countries’ athletes and organizations have also started withdrawing participation during the outbreak. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the organization to make the final decision, said on Sunday, March 22 that it would make an official announcement within four weeks.
Earlier this month, Japan’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, noted that “the IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020,” which could be “interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.” At the time, the suggestion that the games would be postponed was rejected, with an IOC spokesperson confirming that the dates would not be altered.
Since then, however, the number of coronavirus cases in the US has passed 35,000 and much of Europe is on lockdown. In Italy, hundreds of people are dying, with officials calling it the country’s biggest crisis “since World War II”.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday, March 23 that he felt “the world wasn’t in any condition” to proceed with the Games. Dick Pound, another IOC member, also told the press that although “the parameters going forward have not been determined, the games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
Some athletes have expressed conflicting feelings. Erik Kynard, an American high jumper said: “For them to say that they are even prepared to host the games, with the presence of such viruses, I personally think it’s ludicrous. Because how could you be? Your dreams are essentially turning to a fantasy of sorts, because you can’t do what’s necessary to achieve that dream,” he added.
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