Tokyo Olympics Last Chance 2021 IOC Agrees

The International Olympic Committee has agreed unanimously that the Tokyo Olympics must take place before the end of 2021 or be permanently canceled. The games were due to take place this summer, but the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the old and resilient cross-sport celebration.

Athletes on a track.

The Olympic Games in Tokyo are under serious existential threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One possible course of action being touted is to host events behind closed doors. ©Free-Photos/Pixabay

The head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has announced that it is the opinion and will of the committee not to draw out the possibility and uncertainty surrounding the games for longer than necessary. If the games are not able to be held at a time in 2021, then the IOC has decided that they will have to permanently cancel the event.

The Olympic Games were supposed to take place in Japan this summer, but following the onset of the global health crisis, and severe restrictions over crowds and social-distancing, the IOC officially postponed the games in March. The decision was not taken lightly, and as far as the Japanese government were concerned, this was the right solution given the unprecedented and uncertainty of the pandemic.

There has been widespread concern over the global sport in the past months, and it has been difficult to secure the safety of players, staff and officials given the contagious nature of COVID-19. Whilst several sporting leagues around the world have started up, there is an absence of supporters and games are played in eerily quiet arenas. This is a scenario the Olympics is trying to avoid and only wants to host an event that will have some element of public supporter participation.

Shinzo Abe and the IOC appear to be in unity over their stance on hosting the Olympics, a tenable position that wasn’t apparent in the early days of the crisis. With both parties making different forecasts and observations, we can now rest assured that they are together on their future planning and preparations for potential games in the summer of 2021.

2021: the Last Option

What is abundantly clear amidst all the confusion is the untenable nature of open-ended postponement of the games. Logistically speaking, thousands of employees are required, and tens of thousands of volunteers need to be trained and prepared for their individual roles. As the Japanese Prime Minister has now made clear, 2021 will be the last chance for the games to go ahead or be permanently canceled .

Not only is it a logistical nightmare to keep postponing the games, but it also is a catastrophic blow to the chances of athletes hopeful of putting in lifetime best performances at the events. Timing their training months/years in advance to ensure their performance level peaks during the Olympic period is the work of delicate sports science, nutrition and therapy. By not having a definite date to aim for, it becomes incredibly difficult for athletes to put together adequate training plans.

Thomas Bach is also now in agreement of this position, and in the case that the pandemic is not brought under control by middle to end of 2021, there will be no other option than cancellation, as he commented,

“Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this, because you can’t forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an organising committee. You can’t every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You can’t have the athletes being in uncertainty.”Thomas Bach, Chairman, International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee also added that they were committed to ensuring that they will do everything in their power to try and make the games go ahead. But Bach admitted that reorganizing the games under the new conditions would be a “mammoth task”. There would most likely not be a worldwide rollout of a vaccine and the Olympics would have to take place with a focus on the “essentials”. There is a feeling that staging the Olympics behind closed doors would be in violation of the Olympic spirit, but perhaps better than not having any at all.

The Olympic organizers in Tokyo have already made clear that the financial cost is almost at the $13bn mark. This huge sum of money already spent on building stadiums, bolstering infrastructure, public contracts and staff wages are becoming a large motivational factor in not canceling the games. After such a huge cost, the investors want to see a return on their huge capital investment into the project.

1944 Olympics Only Other Time the Event Cancelled

In the 124-year history of the Olympic Games, the only other time that the event could not take place was at the height of World War Two when the 1944 Olympic Games were canceled . The games have been incredibly resilient since that time, surviving global financial crisis, political turmoil, war and corruption scandals. But since then the games have gone ahead uninterrupted, until now, further highlighting the disruption power of COVID-19.

If the games aren’t able to be hosted in 2021, then it will be just the second time the games are canceled in its 124-year history. The seriousness of COVID-19 couldn’t be highlighted in a more pertinent fashion than with the cancellation of one of the worlds most cherished events. Whilst organizers, athletes and government officials are continuing to press ahead with their roadmap, there are still some very significant junctures coming in the next months as they decide if and when to pull the plug on the Olympic project.

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