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Amid growing COVID cases, can the Tokyo Olympics still be cancelled?

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Tokyo Olympics seem to be sitting on a ticking bomb and asking us still - should the Games be cancelled?

Amid growing COVID cases, can the Tokyo Olympics still be cancelled?

Sohinee Basu

Updated: 20 July 2021 9:46 AM GMT

In many ways, the upcoming Tokyo Olympics - the much-awaited multi-sporting extravaganza is behaving like a ticking bomb wound up for an imminent debacle. If the pressure of organising an Olympics in a 'normal' world can lead to the anxious splitting of hairs, the thought of actually executing the greatest sporting competition in the world amidst a pandemic, is nerve-wracking, in the least.

Ever since the coronavirus outbreak took control of the world, early in 2020, the sand-timer counting down to the Tokyo Olympics had to be reset as the Games got postponed by one whole year and pushed back to 2021. However, the Tokyo Olympics is finally (fingers crossed) upon us with 5 days to go before D-Day comes on July 23 and the sporting bonanza rallies on till 8th August.

Gaining the favour of a lot of nay-sayers, especially the residents of Japan, who are majorly still unvaccinated, the Tokyo Olympics doesn't have the strongest fans given the current pandemic situation. What looks both theoretically and practically a ridiculous idea, the Tokyo Olympics is already beginning to show signs of this being a mistake as athletes arriving at the Games village have started testing positive for the virus.

A sharp spike in COVID-19 cases has also taken place in Japan, of late, and has provoked the organising committee of the Tokyo Olympics led by Japan's Olympic minister, Tamayo Marukawa to ban all spectators from the events and force the Games into a closed-doors affair, much to the dismay of a lot of fans.

That said, this decision does not really come as a surprise as there have been widespread protests all over Japan to do away with the Olympics. Moreover, a State emergency has also been declared to combat the spread of the virus and it will be in force till August 22, 2021.

"Taking into consideration the impact of the Delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures," Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.

The financial woes

Hold on to your seats as this figure will make your eyes pop - Japan, in its effort to show its capability has already spent a whopping 15.4 billion on the Games, out of which a lump sum 6.7 billion originate from the State's taxpayers.

Sponsorships, advertising and broadcasting deals aside, there is the onus of organising it simply and all of it costs a lot of big bucks and Japan has already shelled out a screeching lot - building stadiums, revamping old ones, building the Olympics village, so on, so forth.

As it is, the Olympics being held without spectators is going to burn a massive hole in their profit returns as there will be none coming from on-field audience members anymore.

If the Tokyo Olympics get cancelled then Japan will stand to lose billions along with the IOC and that is a scary thought to even entertain with the Games almost breathing behind our necks.

The health massacre

Protest marches to cancel the Tokyo Olympics (Source:AFP)

It is practically impossible to host something like the Olympics and expect to oversee and parent-like supervise as many as 11,500 participating athletes from 206 N.O.C's and at least 79,000 overseas support staff, journalists and officials.

With every potential to become a super spreader event - the Tokyo Olympics, despite its good intentions to be the first gender-balanced Games and the 'greenest' Olympics, is also on the verge of creating a disaster and more than two thirds of the Japanese population is still against it.

Over 6000 doctors in Japan have been crying out loud for months to cancel the Olympics because no matter the technological advancement Japan can boast of, it is not equipped to handle the increase in caseload if athletes start contracting the virus in soaring numbers.

The healthcare system can crumble under pressure of producing new clusters of COVID-19 variants given the number of overseas athletes heading to Tokyo.

The most 'uncertain' Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics is basking in a state of uncertainty

The Tokyo Olympics hasn't even kick-started and there are alarming reports already doing the rounds about athletes facing the virus scare, while a few of them have already been diagnosed with it at the Olympic Games village. It is practically impossible to supervise and regulate and guarantee the safe execution of the Games at this stage.

As it is, this isn't a one-day affair but rather a 2-3 weeks long time frame we are talking about, which only makes the possibility of being affected by the virus worse. Although 80% of the athletes in the Games village are expected to be vaccinated, it isn't a foolproof guarantee against contraction.

It has been a long haul however and a lot of hurdles have been crossed, most turned a blind eye to, to make the Tokyo Olympics happen and therefore Japan will think a gazillion times before calling it off, especially mid-Games.

At this juncture, it does seem likely that July 23 will host the Opening Ceremony with appropriate fanfare but there is no telling what will happen once the Games take off in full-swing.

Aside from the worries related to health - both mental as well as physical, there is the financial bit to worry about. A lot, an unimaginable lot of investments have been made already to erect this showpiece event and a cancellation at this stage will cause a major impact on the global economy.

While it seems unlikely that the Games will get cancelled as there have been no such indications made by the Tokyo organisers or the IOC, there is no knowing just how bad it can get once the Tokyo Olympics begin. Quite the uncertain situation, only time can tell if the Games will get called off and the impact of the impending debacle somewhat softened.

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