THE expected yet abrupt postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic has left the world of sport in a state of severe disappointment. Though calls for postponement of the Games from various quarters had grown louder over the past two weeks, sports federations and athletes around the world continued to train for the mega-event and the International Olympic Committee, while host Japan rebuffed such demands, simply because too much was at stake. However, the rapid escalation of coronavirus cases across the world compelled the IOC and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to review their stance and they subsequently postponed the Games on Tuesday. The IOC has said the Games will be held no later than the summer of 2021 and will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Apart from the period of the two World Wars that witnessed the cancellation of three Olympic Games — in 1916, 1940 and 1944 — this is the first time that the event has been postponed. Of course, no one is happy about the decision, since rescheduling the Olympic Games is a nightmare both financially and logistically. Needless to say, with so much uncertainty still surrounding the future of the pandemic, rescheduling the Games is a massive challenge. In putting together the 2020 Games, Japan reportedly spent a staggering $12.6bn during a monumental process spanning nearly a decade on raising the stadia, the Olympic village, infrastructure, etc. Having said that, postponing the Olympics is the most rational decision in the given circumstances, since not only the lives of thousands of athletes and officials would be at stake, but also those of the estimated 40m visitors. Sports can create hope where once there was only despair, said the late Nelson Mandela, arguably the greatest leader of the 20th Century. It is important, therefore, that Japan and the rest of the world keep the Olympic dream alive and aim for an event better, bigger Olympic Games in 2021 to emerge triumphant from the current setback.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2020