July 25, 2020 3:50:07 am
Japan’s obsession with punctuality had meant they didn’t leave anything for the last minute while planning for the 2020 Tokyo Games. In 1964, the last time they hosted the Games, it was about rebuilding the country’s pride that had taken a beating after World War II. This time they had plans to remind the world that a series of natural disasters, a long economic slump and China’s overwhelming presence next door hadn’t laid them low. But the COVID-19 outbreak changed it all. Among the coronavirus’s less-talked about impact has been its role in dashing the aspirations of a proud nation, thousands of dreamy-eyed Olympians and millions of yearning sporting fans.
If not for the pandemic, this would have been the first weekend of the Tokyo Games. It would have been the time when the world would sit together to first soak in the grandeur of the opening ceremony and then watch even those sports they would otherwise not care about. Synchronised swimmers, artistic gymnasts, burly weight-lifters, sturdy decathletes or nifty boxers would get global attention that would make their long hours of toil in training arenas worth it.
So should the world come together and ensure that the Tokyo Games are saved? Considering Japan’s efficiency, the task of rescheduling the Olympics is not an insurmountable hurdle. But with the pandemic still not in control, can Japan ensure the safety of 11,000 athletes? With the COVID vaccine not expected to be ready for mass distribution by next summer, it will be difficult for Japan to guarantee the safety of the Olympians. The decision-makers are walking a tight-rope. While a cancellation is heart-breaking for the athletes, a sporting event, however grand, can’t be worth staging if it is a risk to human life.
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