It’s the fate of the Olympics in Tokyo. The Games, from July 25-Aug 9, has been a talking point following the postponement of many tournaments due to genuine concerns over Covid-19 outbreak.
Will the biggest sporting show on earth go on?
Many countries have decided against hosting events, even the Olympic qualifiers, leaving many Games hopefuls in a lurch.
Even Japan have cancelled several major tournaments, including their sumo and football tournaments, but the Olympics hosts are hell-bent on making sure the the summer Games will go on.
Their Olympic torch relay scheduled to start on March 26 in Fukushima is planned to take off. In fact, even our StarSport representative has been invited to witness the relay – underlining the commitment of the hosts to do all they can to stage the Games as scheduled.
This is however, in contrast to what some International Olympic Committee (IOC) members have been saying.
Dick Pound, a former Canadian swimming champion who has been on the IOC since 1978, raised an alarm when he said a decision would be made by May on the status of the Tokyo Games – and that the Games may be scrapped all together.
The Games have been scrapped only three times before, all due to world wars, since the start of modern Olympics in 1896 in Athens..
The cancellations were 1916 (Berlin), 1940 (Helsinki) and 1944 (London) due to World War One and Two.
Tokyo was involved in one of those cancellations, too. The city was initially handed the job for 1940 but the Games were later relocated to Helsinki before being cancelled.
There were large boycotts in two other Games in 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles), both also due to wars elsewhere.
However, the Games have never been put off due to a virus or anything else. Even the 1972 Olympic in Munich went on despite the terror attack in the Games village where 11 Israeli athletes were killed along with a German officer.
The talk about cancelling these Games has put Tokyo in a difficult predicament and have inspired new plans.
There is talk of downsizing the Games and limiting the events to specific areas. And there is talk of even running the sport without spectators.
No doubt, Japan will have to give in, if the Covid-19 outbreak remains a big concern. The safety of the athletes comes first.
However, rather than scrapping it all together, I would think the Games should be postponed to a later date.
(Some Malaysian officials however, may prefer to cancel it as it will take the pressure off their shoulders. A repeat of Rio 2016’s three silvers and two bronzes looks quite impossible).
In deferring it, there will be logistical issues and other problems – but the Games is one platform that brings the world together to handle difficulties that may seem to be unsurmountable.
I was there when the Olympic Games went back to Athens in 2004. A total of 201 nations took part, people of different colours, races and religion, and showed great rivalry on the competition arena and sporting spirit of solidarity off the field.
Like the hosts, athletes and many others, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Games will take place as planned and the Covid-19 will be contained as soon as possible.
At a time when political instability, health concerns, mistrust have divided mankind (and indeed, our own country), it will be ideal to have a Games to bring everyone together.
No matter how the situation ends up, a wise decision has to be made. The correct judgment has to be made.
Until then, athletes and officials should just carry on, as Malaysia’s chef de mission Datuk Lee Chong Wei said. They have to be strong and focused despite whatever uncertainty is ahead.
The writer remembers the story of King Solomon, the man of wisdom, who made the right call in a dispute between two woman over a baby. We, in sports and elsewhere, as well, can learn from it! Don’t kill the baby.
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