In an unprecedented decision, the Tokyo Olympics slated to begin in July has been postponed and will now be held by the summer of next year at the latest. The decision was taken after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reached an agreement to delay the Games in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Both parties were reluctant to postpone the mega sporting event, and only days ago were exuding confidence that the Games would be held as per schedule.
What seems to have forced the IOC’s and Japan’s hand is the growing chorus from athletes and Olympic federations across the world to postpone the Games for overall safety. Canada had said it wouldn’t be sending its athletes to Tokyo unless the Games were postponed by a year. Norway and Australia made similar assertions. With the east Asia region being a pandemic hotspot due to the Wuhan origin of the virus, hosting the Olympics in Tokyo at this juncture and allowing thousands of sports fans to descend on the city would have been a nightmare. Besides, many athletes who were preparing for Tokyo have been locked out of training in recent weeks due to the pandemic.
True, Japan will take a substantial financial hit because of the rescheduling. But what’s important now is to halt the Covid-19 spread – Japan itself has 1,193 cases and 43 deaths – so that cleaner, coronavirus-free Games can be held at a later date. And given Japan’s culture of efficiency and resourcefulness, one can be highly optimistic that the Tokyo Olympics will be even grander when it finally happens. Apart from a celebration of sporting excellence, it can also mark the world’s victory over the coronavirus pandemic.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.