The Olympics – an international celebration of sports and the hard work of the best athletes worldwide. A time where all countries can come together to compete in a friendly manner and test their skills. It is also a little controversial for the cost of running the event, as well as the profit cut that the Olympic Committee has taken in recent years. But without a doubt, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is certainly one of the most controversial Olympics due to the Covid-19 situation. While it was delayed to 2021, there are still worries and concerns over how to run the event safely. Despite this, the Committee is very intent on ensuring that the Olympics still takes place with a physical audience. However, there are obvious reasons to oppose this decision, namely the unpredictability of Covid-19.
An International Effect
Over 200 countries are expected to attend the Olympics in 2021. Along with the thousands of athletes who will be competing in the games, there are also media personnel, trainers, coaches, and thousands more sports fans who will travel to Tokyo for the Olympics. Even if everyone is tested regularly for the virus, there is the chance that a test can show negative when someone is infected, and by the time that the test shows positive a few days later, it may be too late as they have already spread the virus to more people.
There is also the possibility that Tokyo will become a new epicenter for the virus. As visitors return home from the games, they may bring the virus back to their respective countries, along with any new strains or mutations that their country may not have been exposed to before.
An Athlete’s Prime Time
Despite the concerns, one may argue that it is necessary for the games to go on. An athlete only has so many years in their ‘prime time’, where they can play at their best for the games. Completely cancelling the Olympics would be taking this opportunity away from them, rendering years of hard work and effort putting blood, sweat, and tears into improving themselves in the hopes of playing at the most important sporting event, wasted.
Even if the Olympics went on with a virtual audience, it wouldn’t be the same. Playing sports in an empty stadium to cameras versus playing to crowds of cheering spectators and fans has a completely different feeling. The fans’ cheering can push and inspire the athletes to go further in the moment. Without the support, the athletes may feel discouraged and possibly cannot perform at their best, once again taking away the chance for athletes to feel like their life-long efforts have been worth it.
Even if the Olympics Committee does a good job of social distancing during the games, what will happen when tourists decide to explore Tokyo? Even though Japan has done a better job at managing the virus than many countries, there are still a significant number of cases. There are even cases among professional athletes such as some members of Japanese professional volleyball team Suntory Sunbirds as well as their staff.
Tokyo already has an extremely dense population and though it has done well in keeping its cases low, it entered 2021 with a surge in positive Covid-19 cases. Though the vaccine may help to decrease these numbers, it is only 95% effective and may not completely shield both the athletes and the public. On top of that, the addition of international athletes and tourists may increase the number of these cases, as they may not adhere to social distancing guidelines and may also travel to different prefectures and cities in Japan, furthering the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country and possibly to those who the vaccine has not been effective for. This is especially worrying due to Japan’s high elderly population, as we know that Covid-19 affects the elderly most.
With most people recovering from Covid-19 (Japan in particular having a mortality rate of only 1.4% according to John Hopkins University), one might think that it’s safe. Even if the athletes get infected, they should be able to recover right? After all, there have been so many cases where people make a complete recovery. However, that might not be always the case.
It is known that many people experience long-term effects of Covid-19 such as losing their sense of smell and taste, but there are also worse effects such as heart and lung complications (both of which can be extremely dangerous for an athlete’s career). An example of complications majorly affecting a career is with Broadway actor Nick Cordero who had his leg amputated due to Covid-19 complications and has since passed away. Even if he had recovered, his amputation would have severely affected his career as a performer. To an athlete, health complications such as this can mean the end of a career.
So is it really worth the risk to run the Olympics? In my opinion, no. The dangers to an athlete’s life and career, as well as the public’s health, are just too much. Even if it is majorly disappointing, there are always other sporting events taking place that do not require international participation. And if the event must take place, I believe it would be best to do so without a physical audience.
After all, there will be more Olympics in the future, and the sports world will not suddenly die off because of one major event being cancelled.
Written by Samantha Joshlyn Thong Mun