Postponing Olympics will save unforeseen costs
Although the Japanese government and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) are putting on a brave face, the mood among many Japanese demands that the Olympic Games set for July 23 to August 8, 2021 in Tokyo be postponed until such a time the world will have achieved universal vaccination against the coronavirus, or the infection rates become negligible over a long period.
The quitting of more than 10,000 out of 80,000 volunteers from the games in recent weeks has aggravated the lingering doubts whether it is really safe to hold the games.
If such a trend continues, it poses a logistical nightmare to the event’s organisers on different fronts.
Moreover, the number of those vaccinated in Japan is below average. On May 19, the Nikkei newspaper reported that 30 per cent of Japan’s medical workers in the country’s major cities were yet to be vaccinated.
During this period, only a paltry 3.7 per cent of Japan’s 126 million citizens had received at least one Covid-19 jab, with only one per cent of the population reportedly fully vaccinated by May 13.
Japan seems like it has been abandoned by the rest of the world to solely make this decision.
No country has so far made an official statement of advice to Japan on the matter.
Similarly, none has categorically stated its position on the games. Much of the silence by the international community is more sympathy than abandonment.
Many countries are still indecisive on whether to fly their teams to Tokyo. Never mind that even Japanese fans may not be allowed to attend the Games even though polls show opinion is divided in the middle.
However, on May 21, the IOC vice president in charge of the Tokyo Olympics, John Coates, overruled Japan’s medical experts and stated that the Games will go on regardless of the pandemic’s rising numbers.
“The advice we have from the (World Health Organisation) and all other scientific and medical advice that we have, is that — all the measures we have outlined, all of those measures that we are undertaking, are satisfactory and will ensure a safe and secure Games in terms of health.”
Countries have spent millions of dollars preparing their teams for the greatest sporting event in the world.
One year later after the games were postponed in July 2020, no one would have thought that the coronavirus would still be a grave threat to human health.
According to economists in Japan’s Kansai University, the country has already invested $25 billion in the Olympics, 80 per cent of the money being public funds.
The scholars say that the country could lose an estimated $ 41 billion if the games are cancelled.
The mutation of Covid-19 into new variants is worsening the situation. There are already three major variants – South African, Indian and lately Vietnam – that are giving both health experts and authorities a major challenge.
Put together, these variants could produce a more lethal runaway virus that could spread across the world.
It would be sad if the Olympics were to gain the dubious distinction as a super spreader event.
The nature of the pandemic, and any airborne disease of that magnitude is such that there is no foolproof prevention method against infection.
It is a tough lesson that we are truly living in a global village with a shared destiny for mankind.
What happens in one corner of the world can have ramifications that reverberate globally, holding all of us at ransom.
One year and a half after the emergence of the coronavirus and there is still no respite.
Going by popular opinion of various players, postponing the Olympics, yet again, would be the wisest decision.
Though financially devastating, it will save unforeseen costs likely from a pandemic crisis during the sixteen-day event. — The writer is an international affairs columnist