There are roughly 100 days to go until the Tokyo Olympics, but there has been fanfare on whether or not the games should continue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has proved fatal and Japan is struggling to contain the virus. Furthermore, a surge in cases has erupted in major countries around the world, making travel even more difficult, particularly for athletes and their teams. Nevertheless, the games have gotten the go ahead and will be starting on July 23rd, lasting for 16 days. There are pros and cons to hosting the Olympics, with many athletes expressing their reluctance and concerns on whether or not they want to attend.
Since the start of 2020, Japan has never imposed any strict lockdown rules on the people there. Even though a state of emergency has been declared multiple times and there have been early closures and some limitations, no rules have been enforced. Everyone wears a mask, but people still walk around freely and dine in at restaurants. Furthermore, the vaccination initiative in Japan is basically non-existent as less than 1% of the population have gotten the vaccine. Without the vaccine, COVID-19 poses an even graver danger to everyone..
Hosting the Olympics does provide many benefits. On top of offering top-notch entertainment to a huge audience and instilling national pride in people, the games strengthens international relations and provides solidarity. In a world that is currently racked by conflict, everyone could definitely benefit from good-natured competition through the power of sport. Sportsmanship between competitors offers unity and hope not only to athletes but also to spectators. For example, conflicting countries like China and Taiwan, as well as North and South Korea, have benefited from good relations at the Olympics. The organization behind the Olympics established a Refugee Olympic Team to show support for the ongoing refugee crisis and allow refugees to compete, even though they may not be representing any country.
The Olympics proposes valuable opportunities for the host country – in this case Japan – to promote their culture, tourism and tradition. The country invested millions of dollars to build stadiums and arenas for each sport, so these efforts would be wasted if they could not host the Olympics. It also provides lots of financial benefits, particularly for athletes and sponsors. Athletes spend years training for the Olympics, in order to showcase their skills on the world stage. For many athletes, this might be their last chance to get a medal or their last international competition. It is also a great avenue for athletes to get a boost in their career and to promote themselves. Their careers are on the line.
Nevertheless, hosting the Olympics could have fatal consequences. When the Australian Open (for tennis) was held earlier this year in January, it triggered a surge in cases as athletes and their team members contracted the coronavirus. This posed a threat to the local community that had few to no cases at all. CDC COVID-19 guidelines have advised people not to travel to Japan at all. The games will not have any live spectators, so the feeling for the athletes will be completely different. The Olympics involves at least 10,000 athletes, not including the personnel that accompany them, flying in from all around the world, including harder-hit countries. There is no doubt that there will be a surge in cases that Japan is just not ready or equipped to deal with, considering that barely anyone is vaccinated. The local community do not want the Olympics to be held because it would threaten their health. Towns that were supposed to host Olympic villages for the athletes have stated that they do not want the athletes in their village because they could be bringing the coronavirus to their community. Japanese doctors have warned that they are ill-equipped to handle a surge in cases. In the end, lives are more important than medals.
Rightfully, for the safety of everyone’s health, the Olympics should be cancelled or postponed. While this could infringe on athletes’ careers and plans, their health is ultimately more important than what they could have achieved. Nevertheless, it seems like Japan has gotten the green light to continue with the games, and the majority of countries have opted to send their athletes to Japan to compete in July.
Feature Image: APAC INSIDER