DEBATE: Should the IOC cancel Tokyo as coronavirus looms?
THE GAMES MUST GO ON
CORONAVIRUS, the disease that has rocked Asia since December last year, is becoming more of a threat than many first realised.
First found in Wuhan, China, and derived from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been contracted by more than 82,000 people across 48 countries – and Japan, the host nation of the upcoming Olympics, is the fourth-highest nation on the list with more than 170 cases.
While we have seen outbreaks of disease in recent years such as swine flu, ebola and the aformentioned SARS, none of them have ever put the Olympic Games at risk.
In fact, the Olympics have only ever been cancelled due to World War I and World War II, in 1916, 1940 and 1944.
But is the coronavirus enough to derail the biggest multi-sport event in the world? I don’t think so.
We have until July 24, just under five months, to get the situation under control and I believe a country as organised as Japan is capable of putting together a system to eliminate any risk of further contamination should it come to that.
It may appear that the disease is spreading rapidly, but I believe we will have a handle on coronavirus, just like we have with any other epidemic in recent years, and the Games will go ahead.
If they do, however, don’t be surprised to see plenty of face masks.
IOC FACES A TOUGH GAMES CALL
PICTURE the scene: a voice echoes around a stadium, announcing the field of the final of the 100m sprint.
Rather than wild cheering, there’s silence. The stands are empty, except for a few security guards in hazmat gear.
The runners take to their blocks, fitted out in Nike or Adidas shoes, and face masks.
They take off, the race is won and the finalists file straight from the track to undergo mandatory blood, urine and coronavirus checks.
This could be the scenario organisers face at the 2020 Olympic Games, which are set to take place in Japan in July.
South-East Asia is the regional epicentre of the coronavirus, which could be a pandemic by the time the flame leaves Mt Olympus.
With all the moving pieces and cogs of the International Olympic Committee, there’s no way the Games could be postponed to later in the year.
They either have to go ahead as planned, or not at all.
The only things that stopped the Olympics going ahead in the modern era (since 1896), were two world wars.
Though I don’t think the virus is at that magnitude yet, who’s to say it won’t get there by July? The worst is to come.
If they do go ahead with the games, the IOC runs the risk of the aforementioned scenario: empty stadiums and venues due to fear of travel, quarantine and athletes getting sick.
Is that a risk the IOC is willing to take?