COVID-19 upended pro sports across the world. And the 2020 Summer Olympics got postponed for an entire year. It was the first time in over 70 years that it had been postponed. In 2021, the Summer Games are tentatively scheduled to take place. Florida offered to take over hosting duties. Whether you take that seriously or laugh out loud, Tampa Bay hosting Super Bowl LV is a good test of how they’d handle a big sporting event during a pandemic.
Summer Olympics postponed
The opening ceremony for the 2020 Summer Olympics had been scheduled for July 24, 2020. Yet as COVID-19 rampaged the world, it became clear that the games couldn’t operate as planned. On March 24, the Japanese Prime Minister and the president of the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the games.
According to ESPN, the games were rescheduled for a “date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.” That decision, though necessary for health reasons, made a significant economic impact. The Japan Times reported that the overall “economic damage” of postponing the games would amount to around 640.8 billion Yen — or a little over $6 billion.
The Olympics’ fate is still in question
About a month after the initial postponement, health experts started expressing doubt about holding the games in 2021. The New York Times reported that a Japanese medical authority warned the Games would likely not occur without a vaccine. At this point, of course, several vaccines have been developed.
Yet it remains unclear how long it will take for vaccines to be widely implemented. Doubts about the fate of the 2020 Summer Olympics grew in mid-January when Tokyo experienced a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases.
With just over six months before the Olympics were scheduled to begin, the news caused new doubts on whether the international sports competition could take place. Public opinion in Japan, meanwhile, is clearly against the games. According to The Guardian, just 16% of Japanese people think that the Olympics should proceed as planned in July.
Florida volunteers to host the Olympics
As the fate of the Tokyo Olympics grew more dubious, Jimmy Patronis, chief financial officer of the state of Florida, stepped in. On January 25, he sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee encouraging them to think about relocating the postponed Olympics from Tokyo to Florida. Patronis cited Florida’s ongoing decision to allow “sports to take place during the pandemic.”
Then, he drew attention to the fact that Florida successfully hosted the UFC and the NBA “bubble” in Orlando. Patronis also praised Florida’s “ample hotel capacity and well-maintained transportation network.” According to Insider, it was unclear whether Patronis was acting on the approval of other state officials, or whether he was going out on his own limb.
Either way, it didn’t take long for his letter to draw scorn for a variety of reasons. Many commentators deemed it little more than a publicity stunt. Others pointed out how ridiculous it was from a logistical standpoint. Still, others, like the Huffington Post, called it “mind-bogglingly stupid” in terms of public health and safety. According to recent data from NPR, Florida has had the third most coronavirus cases. It also has the fourth most deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Still, the story gained enough traction that the White House press secretary Jen Psaki even got asked about it. She declined to wade into the debate, instead directing people to the International Olympic Committee, who have continued to support Tokyo.