Aussie Open’s COVID-19 Problems Not a Good Sign For Tokyo Games

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The Olympic Rings in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy: Tokyo 2020

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The closer we get to the 2021 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, the more up in the air the Tokyo Games seem as the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic continue. Tokyo and other parts of Japan are under an emergency order because of a rise in cases with about 4,500 deaths attributed to COVID-19, leading to increased speculation about the possibility of the games being canceled altogether.

The start of the vaccine has helped in some parts of the world, but the distribution and time it would take on the list to get to Olympic athletes is not clear and could be very different in different countries. The International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers are still adamant the games will happen. The torch relay is scheduled to begin March 25.

Only five Olympic Games have ever been canceled, all during wartime: the 1916, 1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics, and Winter Games in 1940 and 1944.

But the vaccine and athletes and coaches coming from all over the world, whether there are fans or not, is a logistical nightmare that isn’t going away, no matter how many millions of dollars have been put into the games.

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The Australian Open is proof of that.

At least 72 tennis players were exposed to COVID-19 from flights into Australia. With 128 players in the tournament, that is causing all kinds of problems for the tournament, which is supposed to start Feb. 8. That gives some time for a quarantine, but that means many of the players will not be training or practicing right before the major tournament. But that also is just the number of people exposed so far. More information and link to players is being uncovered by the day.

Now imagine an event where there are 11,000 athletes instead of 128 — coming from even more countries.

The logistical nightmare is hard to process.

A recent poll by Japanese public broadcaster NHK found that 77% of respondents felt the Games should be postponed again or completely canceled, with only 16% in favor of holding them this year, according to CNN.

No matter what the public thinks, money is a factor, but safety should be the biggest factor. If things don’t improve in Japan, there will be many more tough decisions ahead.

“The one-year postponement was a proposal by Japan, the Organizing Committee said ‘look, we can hold this together for another year, but not further’,” Former Olympic official Dick Pound told CNN. “Postponing it for another year, for example, will come at a huge cost, which Japan may not be willing to incur. It will further complicate a crowded sports schedule …you’re going to have the World Cup and football going on, and at some point it’s just there’s just too much congestion in the overall system.”

1 comment

  1. avatar
    John S

    I still think they should have held separate monthly competitions for each of the sports to avoid overcrowding … the opening ceremony could still be held scaled down level

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