The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still shrouds the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The pandemic is threatening the Games, just days before the opening ceremonies.
Cases have risen in Japan, and the Games were slated to be held without spectators. Yet, more athletes have tested positive for coronavirus, with the growing departure of sponsors also having an impact.
Will the Games go on as planned? Or has the situation become too untenable?
Multiple athletes tested positive for coronavirus in recent days, causing more skepticism
There has been no shortage of positive cases among Team USA athletes in the past few days.
Teenage tennis star Coco Gauff revealed she contracted the virus and was pulling out of the Games. Women’s gymnastics alternate Kara Eaker tested positive, as did women’s basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson. Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic later reported Chicago Bulls star and men’s basketball standout Zach LaVine was placed under health and safety protocols and would not travel with the team.
The rise in cases would appear to lend itself to caution. According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, there is an average of over 3,000 positive cases per week. There is a lot of uncertainty, and that uncertainty has led to skepticism the Games will be held.
Toyota is among the sponsors to pull advertisements from the Games, per the New York Times. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported senior officials at Nippon and other companies will skip Friday’s opening ceremonies.
The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said the Olympics could still be canceled
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics might be canceled for the second consecutive year.
Toshiro Muto, chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, was asked whether the Games could be scrapped. Muto suggested that is indeed a possibility.
“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases,” Muto said, per Reuters via ESPN. “So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases.
“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
The organizing committee needs to be decisive in the coming days. Some athletes have been in Tokyo for weeks. Other athletes and teams were traveling this week. There doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of breathing room.
Regardless, there is a distinct possibility the Games are canceled amid the surge in positive cases.
Should the Olympic Games already have been postponed?
It’s easy to see why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wants the Games to continue after last year’s postponement. Yet, domestic and international criticisms of the situation in Tokyo were pretty abundant in recent months. Makiko Inoue of the New York Times reported a poll in May found 83 percent of Japanese respondents did not want to host the Olympics.
Andrew Keh of the New York Times reported IOC president Thomas Bach had been the “centrifugal force” in pushing the Games on. Bach had a rather puzzling take on the communicative aspect.
“I think there was a lack of communication to explain this better,” Bach said via Keh, “to ask the people, to ask also the athletes, try to put yourself into our shoes.”
Well, so much for transparency. All the athletes can do now is wait on the organizing committee’s final decision. It’s also interesting Bach left out the host nation’s citizens and how they have responded to the Games charging ahead.
In any case, it’s impossible not to feel like a last-minute cancellation was an entirely avoidable situation.