The coronavirus pandemic has caused a domino effect across the sporting world, with several sports shutting down play over the course of a couple weeks around the globe. On March 24, the biggest domino fell with the announcement that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — originally scheduled to start on July 24 — would be postponed until 2021 due to concerns over the virus.
After the International Olympic Committee gave itself a four-week period to decide on the fate of the Olympics on March 22, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom all announced that they wouldn’t send athletes to Tokyo if the games took place this year. Less than two days later, for the first time not due to a war, the Olympics was postponed.
The IOC made the right move by delaying the games. Around 11,000 athletes are expected to compete, with a large group coming from China, where COVID-19 originated. The Japanese government has taken precautions to minimize the spread of the virus, but players from other nations could still unknowingly bring coronavirus to Japan and infect thousands of other players and spectators. The United States now leads the world in the number of cases, and to have the Olympics take place during a global pandemic would’ve been a bad look for the IOC.
This is already a scary time. To have thousands of people crowded together may make the disease even more likely to spread and make the situation worse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several global health organizations have advised event organizers to limit crowd sizes. This would likely mean that there wouldn’t be crowds on hand to watch the Olympic Games, which would put a damper on the spectacle and energy of the events.
“Now is not the time to focus on high-performance sport,” Rosie MacLennan, a two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist, said to The Athletic. “Now is the time to focus on what’s going on in the health of the country.”
There were no Olympics during World War I, nor during World War II. Both wars were global crises that killed thousands of people. While coronavirus isn’t a war, it’s a worldwide emergency that’s killed thousands of people and infected thousands more and has the potential to infect millions. If the Olympics had gone on as scheduled, even more countries might have pulled out and refused to send athletes.
Many people, including myself, use sports as a way to improve their mood. However, coronavirus is so much more than sports, and postponing the Olympics could save thousands of lives, which is the most vital thing right now.
So far, the response to the postponement from athletes has been positive. Several Olympians have posted upbeat messages on social media, advocating for personal safety and health.
An invisible enemy has put a sudden stop on several sports and impacted careers and narratives around the world. Now, the biggest global sporting event will be stopped as well, and for good reason.
Contact Joshua Gingrich at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.