Olympics are much more than just a sporting event; they mark the triumph of human spirit over adversity and symbolise goodwill and international cooperation in what is otherwise a fractious world. With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the world has taken the right call, putting the interests of public health ahead of money. For lovers of sport across the world, it may feel like a heart-breaking development but this was the right move in the given circumstances. If sport is seen as a victory of individual perseverance over adversity, the whole world is now grappling with a major adversity. When the Olympics are held around this time next year, it will truly be a celebration of the entire world coming out of this adversity. After all the pain of social distancing, it will be a great occasion to celebrate the Olympics’ spirit together. No doubt, the cost and pain of postponement is huge for the Japanese organisers. The economic and collateral toll will be in billions of dollars and the complexities of trying to reorganise everything from venue construction to hotel blocs are immense. The cost of hosting Tokyo Olympics was pegged at $25 billion, a majority of which has already been spent on large-scale infrastructure projects such as transportation networks, hotels and new venues. Sponsors, insurers and broadcasters have also committed billions to the Games. The organisers will now have to figure out how to keep things running for another year while making sure venues are up to date.
The modern-era Olympics have never been rescheduled in peacetime. The Games were cancelled thrice in the past —1916, 1940 and 1944— because of world wars. The ongoing pandemic crisis is no less than a war. The postponement was the only logical option before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government. Australia and Canada had announced they would not be sending athletes to Tokyo while several others, including the United States, Germany and Poland called for the Games to be deferred until next year. The Covid-19 global outbreak has already wreaked havoc on the international sporting calendar with several events across continents, including Euro 2020, being suspended. The IOC was facing mounting pressure to delay the Games, which were originally scheduled to take place from July 24 to August 9. At a time when many countries around the world are in lockdown, continuing with the Olympic schedule would not have made any sense. With athletes and spectators coming from around the world, the Olympics could have become a dystopic coronavirus hot zone. And, it would have been a highly irresponsible and unconscionable act. Caring for human life is far more important than holding a sporting event.
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