WITH the 100-day countdown to the Tokyo Olympics commencing a few days back, the organisers and the Japanese government are putting up a brave face and reiterating their resolve to hold the Games as planned. However, they know that this is easier said than done. The recent spike in coronavirus cases worldwide is posing a huge challenge to their goal while opinion polls in Japan reveal that most of the population would like to see the Olympics either cancelled or postponed. The Games, already a year late, are set to be held from July 23 to Aug 8. The Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto recently said that cancellation is not an option and that the Olympics will, in fact, be a celebration of solidarity, unity and resilience. As one might expect from the world’s third-largest economy, the venues and stadiums are ready to host various disciplines in the mega affair, but the spike in infections has disrupted several events leading up to the Olympics including the torch relay. Australia’s diving team on Friday withdrew from the Diving World Cup scheduled for May 1-6 in Tokyo, saying it was “not safe” to travel to Japan. Among other events scheduled for next month, the marathon swim Olympic qualifier has been moved to Portugal and the artistic gymnastics test event has been cancelled because of restrictions on international travellers.
The Games organisers have already announced strict measures for spectators and athletes, which include reducing the size of Olympics delegations, adhering to strict standards of hygiene, social distancing, testing, etc. It was quite incredible then that they said vaccinations were not mandatory for participants — against the advice of many experts. Overall, there are 33 sporting and 339 medal events that will be contested at the Tokyo Games which are being billed as the best in the history of the modern Olympics. But despite the Games being just three months away, the fate of the biggest sporting spectacle on earth still hangs in the balance.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2021