Lessons to learn from deferral of Olympics

by March 29, 2020 0 comments

Keeping the global preparedness in mind, we all must realise the fact that we need a robust strategy, particularly public health emergency to handle pandemics like Covid-19. Life certainly comes first; therefore creating kerfuffle around such crisis is a folly. Rather, we must gather courage to fight the menace out and look forward to Tokyo 2021 with renewed vigour and conviction

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) at last postponed the Tokyo Olympic 2020 for a year. Echoing the sentiments of the sporting community world over, its president Thomas Bach said, “These postponed Olympic Games will need compromises by all of the stakeholders.” It’s not only Japan, particularly the city of Tokyo, but also thousands of sportspersons and allied agencies who were supposed to be an integral part of this landmark event have all been hit by the deadly Covid-19.

The historic flame of the Olympic was handed over by Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos to Naoko Imoto (former Olympian swimmer), who represented the Tokyo Organizing Committee, on March 19. And the flame reached Japan through a special aircraft named “Tokyo 2020 Go”. As a significant part of the Olympic Movement, the flame is quite often linked to the messages of hope and peace. The Tokyo 2020 torch relay concept known as “Hope Lights Our Way” was designed to unite the entire Japanese people with emotion. But then unfortunately, before the flame was to be started from Fukushima to the rest of Japan on March 26, the IOC took the historic decision to push the Games to the next year. Though it was nearly sure for an immediate cancellation of the Tokyo Games, yet the Japanese Government was hoping against all odds to organise it.

The opening ceremony for the Olympic Games was supposed to start on July 24 and the Paralympics were scheduled from August 25. Interestingly, Tokyo, one of the most populous cities in the world, was going to host the largest sporting event of the globe. By the end of the 2019, the organisers calculated the total cost of the Games around 1.33 trillion yen i.e. 1.12 billion Euros.

And this entire cost was incurred by three parties — the City of Tokyo, the Japanese Olympic Organizing Committee and the Central Government of the country. But the experts say the real cost of organising this mega event would be ten times higher than what has been revealed in public so far.

The mascot of the Tokyo 2020 “Miraitowa” has a personality inspired by the Japanese proverb, “learn from the past and develop new ideas”. It is taken from Japanese words, “mirai” meaning “future” and “towa” meaning “eternity”. Thus this mascot represents the idea that this game will lead to a future of everlasting hope in the hearts of everyone around the world.

If we look at the history we observe that it was only the historic World Wars that led to the cancellation of the Olympics in the past. But the current trend is that other phenomena such as politics, terrorism and pandemics with global underpinnings have forced all of us to call of such sports extravaganzas. Since the opening of the Modern Olympic Games in Athens (Greece) in 1896, the game has only been cancelled three times — first during the World War I in 1916, second and third time during the World War II in 1940 and 1944. It must be noted here that until the advent of coronavirus pandemic, that has forced the IOC to postpone the Olympic, the game has weathered all other crises in the past. In 1916, the German Empire was to host the Olympic but with the outbreak of the First World War, it was simply cancelled.

Many of the nations who were to send participants to the games had eventually indulged into the war. In 1940, the Summer and Winter Olympics were to be held in Japan, but it forfeited its rights as it got involved in a war with China. Else Japan would have been the first non-Western country to host the games. Again London was to host the Games in 1944 and because of the Second World War, it was summarily cancelled.

Though opinions vary, economic analysts simply come to one single point: As the Games has been postponed, the toughest task for the Japanese economy would be to wading through the prolonged pandemic in the days to come. Now, the rechristened Olympic 2021 will have to be planned entirely on the basis of a new global sports calendar.

And also Bach clarified that rescheduling is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table, before and including the summer of 2021. The IOC has given the responsibility to a task force called “Here We Go” to find out all possibilities for organise this historic event held once in four years. The team’s job is to interact with probably 33 sports federations and to look into the world sports calendar so as to plan the grand Olympic 2021.

But what now seems is that the IOC is working with the other sports organisations to arrange a July-August window to fix the dates for Tokyo Olympics 2021. This time could be better as the Tennis Grand Slams of Wimbledon and the US Open slated to end respectively in mid-July and in late August. John Coates, the chief of the Coordination Commission of the IOC is hopeful that within a month the final dates for Olympic 2021 may be locked.

It is also agreed that more or less the same arrangements would be there for the Games in 2021 such as the planning the marathon in northern city of Sapporo instead of Tokyo to escape the heat. This would be finally boosting the lost morale of many investors and sponsors of various events as now they all could focus on channelising their resources.

Hope lies ahead for sure. The health experts, researchers and pharmaceutical enterprises all together are working hard to bring out an effective drug to stop the deadly Covid-19. At this juncture, the world community badly demands leadership and unity among the nations. Accusing one another for spreading the virus and movement of the migrants would not definitely provide us any solution. It’s just a virus and a lethal one. Countering the same requires precaution first and of course timely supply of drugs at an affordable price.

Taking hard decisions and then delivering better is a daunting task. What Bach looks forward is simply this only. Even he is eyeing on all options, and one of them could be planning the games just before the start of the Japanese summer season.

At this gloomy scenario, mixed feelings are being aired by sportspersons all around the world. This deferring may lead to an end of the active careers of our time. Because some of the greats, like Michel Phelps, who have been named as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, is now talking about the “mental health” of the players across the world. To him the postponement is nothing but a “total bamboozle” so to say. Yes it’s true. Many of them would be suffering from high levels of depression.

Certainly apart from ones who are purely garrulous, we must understand the depth and impact of the Covid-19. Postponing at this moment is not a gaffe; it is absolutely a wise decision.

Fighting this pandemic is like a countering a “Third World War”, but without arms and ammunition. The last two World Wars had witnessed the pouring of large sums of money, muscle power and sophisticated weapons, including the most deadly atomic bombs. But then still we are all looking for an opportunity to fight, though not a real war, but of course a virtual one. Days of sabre-rattling have gone. A real and extremely poisonous threat in the form of Covid-19 has taken a toll on humanity for now.

Keeping the global preparedness in mind, we all must realise the fact that we need a robust strategy, particularly public health emergency to handle such epidemics. Life certainly comes first; thus creating kerfuffle around such crisis would only lead to more panic among the commoners. The global sports community must be really hopeful that this pandemic will teach all of us a strong lesson to usher into a Tokyo 2021 with renewed vigour and conviction.

(Writer: Makhan Saikia; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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