Should the Tokyo Games proceed as planned? Should they be postponed for another year? Or should they just completely be canceled?
by Prithvi Prem
For roughly 2 weeks every four years, The world’s greatest athletes compete for worldwide respect in the Summer Olympic Games. Since its creation in 1896, the Olympics have brought unity amongst the world and have provided spotlight to many of the most influential people in history. Every four years, over 3 billion people from around the world watch the Olympics, a viewership only rivaled by those of the World Cup and the Tour de France. Once the games are over, people will immediately shift their focus towards the next edition, which will be four years later.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to wait a little longer. The Tokyo Summer Olympics was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but due to the ongoing pandemic, it was pushed back a year. Recently, there have been rumors that the Olympic Committee is strongly considering canceling the Tokyo Games this summer and, instead, setting their sights towards the games in 2024.
This is where the Trilemma is presented. Should the Tokyo Games proceed as planned? Should they be postponed for another year? Or should they just completely be canceled?
POV 1: The Games should Proceed as Planned
On March 30, 2020, the Tokyo Olympic organizers announced that the games would be pushed back to 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of February 2021, the spread of the vaccine has reduced the future impact of the virus; cases have begun to drop throughout the world. This is undoubtedly a good sign for the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in late July. By then, vaccines can most likely reach most, if not all participating athletes, as well as organizers and some staff.
In terms of keeping participants safe in Tokyo, the committee can implement a bubble, similar to what the NBA did this past season in Orlando. The NBA bubble in Orlando was a massive success due to the strict regulations implemented on contact and interactions among players and staff. The players also seemed to have enjoyed this experience. By imposing similar regulations in a bubble, the Tokyo officials can ensure that the games will run smoothly without any COVID-19 scares.
There is also a question about what will happen to spectators. I think that the games should proceed without spectators due to the ongoing restrictions of the pandemic. Although the committee will surely lose money, it is the safest option by far. The Olympics could also take inspiration from the NBA games by including virtual fans in the events. That way, more people will be encouraged to spectate the matches. In the event that they do allow spectators into the event, I believe that they should make sure that all spectators have taken the COVID-19 vaccine. That would certainly lessen the chance of getting a COVID-19 outbreak within the event.
POV 2: The Olympics should be postponed for another year
Before Japanese officials made the decision to postpone the Olympics to 2021, there was support for a two-year postponement. By the summer of 2022, vaccines would’ve hopefully been administered to most of the world population and COVID-19 should be less of a concern. Hosting the Olympics should be a much easier task, right?
2022 already has its fair share of world events. The Winter Olympics will be happening in Beijing at the beginning of the year, and the FIFA World Cup is going to be held in Qatar towards the end of the year. For the first time in a while, the World Cup is not being held during the summer months. That allows room for the summer Olympics. With the inclusion of the Olympics, that’s year-round entertainment for the entire world to enjoy.
The postponement of the games to 2022 can also allow spectators at the event. This would be huge for the host city and the Olympic committee, as they would be making money which they would most likely have missed out on had the event been held this year. Along with benefiting spectators, this postponement can also benefit athletes. Postponing it one more year gives participants more time to train, as well as allow more participants to join, as they would meet the eligibility requirements.
POV 3: Completely Cancel the Tokyo Olympics
If the situation does not get better, there is always the option to completely scrap this edition of the summer games. If they were to cancel the games, it is probably because of at least one of these reasons: the rapid spread of COVID-19, the limited global vaccine rollout, and the rising costs of hosting the games themselves.
As of February 2021, COVID-19 has killed almost 2.5 million people worldwide. In Japan itself, it has killed around 7,200 people. The Olympic committee needs to be aware that the pandemic is not a problem confined to one region, but an omnipresent threat gripping every corner of the globe. Along with the public health threat, there are far more significant concerns other than this summer's Tokyo Olympics. With new variants of the virus discovered in South Africa and the UK, as well as hospitals around the world overflowing, the Tokyo Olympics seem like a distant thought.
Even though the Japanese government is very optimistic about the vaccines, their optimism is not shared by many Japanese people. The government most likely will not be able to secure enough supplies to vaccinate its 126 million population by July. With about 15,000 athletes and match officials, Japan cannot afford to have another COVID-19 outbreak occur. Although the cost of cancellation would be astronomical, many are afraid of the even higher costs of implementing coronavirus countermeasures to make the games safe. Due to that, the safest, most risk-free option would be to cancel this edition of the summer games. By 2024, the games should be able to run as normal.
So should the Olympics be canceled? In my opinion, I don’t think so. Instead, I believe that if the Japanese government takes the pandemic seriously and imposes strict regulations, they should hold the Olympics this summer, as planned. This includes implementing a bubble, as well as not allowing spectators. Although they will end up losing money, it is the safest way to ensure that everything goes as planned. That being said, I would not be surprised if they end up totally canceling the summer games this year, as that would be the by far, the safest option.