Swept away by the fervour of the upcoming Olympic games, it is pretty easy to forget everything happening in the lead-up to the games. The fact that the very name is a misnomer is the most significant indication. Here we are writing about the upcoming Olympic 2020 in the year 2021. Here is a look at everything that has happened till now.
Until the 14 of February, there was no plan of cancelling or postponing the games; by then, almost 64,000 people had been infected worldwide. Though shrouded in uncertainties, the torch lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece, goes ahead without spectators, and Donald Trump suggests postponing the games instead of being held without spectators.
The athletes worldwide are encouraged to keep on training by IOC as the committee declares that they are fully committed to hosting the games in July 2020. The very next day, the IOC has Greek Olympic Champion, Katerina Stefanidi, criticizing them for "risking our health".
The torch relay in Japan is cancelled on the 20 of March as fear of large-crowd congregation spreads, but the flame reached Tokyo in a scaled-down welcoming ceremony. Finally, on the 23 of March, Dick Pound tells USA Today Sports that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games have been postponed, likely to 2021, but the details will still be worked out in the next four weeks.
And just like that a year has passed and the games are about to start in a week, the conditions still seem eerily similar! Tokyo has seen an increase in the number of cases; there are 812,089 confirmed cases and 14,848 deaths since the 8 of July, and much like last year, the entry of foreigners into the country has been banned.
Adding to the difficulty is the slow rollout process of vaccines in Japan, whereby only 15% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The city of Tokyo, where most of the new cases are, has been put under severe restrictions, and the city faces the possibility of hosting the games under a partial lockdown.
So far, as many as 40 people involved in the Games, including domestic and foreign nationals, have tested positive. The latest case is the first at the 44-hectare athletes' village on Tokyo's waterfront, where a majority of the 11,000 competitors will be staying despite the strict protocols they have to adhere to.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto has confirmed that no spectators will be allowed into the arenas in Tokyo; however, outside Tokyo, where the number of cases is relatively low, might allow a certain number of visitors. Initially, about 10,000 Japanese fans were allowed to watch the matches; however, Hashimoto has apologized to "those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas".
The Japanese response to the hosting of the games has been lukewarm. Many of the town authorities have declined the opportunity to host the games, fearing a massive surge in the number of cases in the region leading to the overwhelmed health system.
The Telegraph reports that an Asahi newspaper poll of June 19-20 of almost 1,500 people showed 62 percent supported another postponement or cancellation of the games. However, about one-third supported holding the Olympics, up from 14 percent in May in the same poll.
In the same survey, 83 percent said they "feel uneasy" that the Olympics might spread the virus. The poll said 53 percent wanted no fans, and 42 percent said attendance should be limited.
However, given the financial commitment already made to the hosting of the games, it might have been difficult for the authorities to cancel or postpone the games any further. The contract between the IOC and the host city Tokyo ensures that it is only the IOC that can cancel the event.
The IOC would make around 70% of its money from broadcast rights and 18% from sponsorship; if Tokyo had pulled out of the championship, all the losses would fall to its share.
Athletes do not have to be vaccinated before reaching Japan, but they have to isolate for three days before and after arriving and remain in biosecurity bubbles. They are barred from using public transport, and their movements will be monitored via an app that they have to download on their phones to track and trace. They are not allowed to eat at places other than their designated areas, such as their rooms, restaurants, or other assigned areas.
Under these circumstances, holding the games come with huge stakes; however, the completion of the games would be a triumph of the human spirit, which is what the games are, after all, about. Moreover, since we are supposed to live with the virus anyway, we should get used to going about our lives while complying with covid restrictions.