Maybe they should just cancel the Tokyo Olympics already, or all Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics are scheduled to take place this July and August — yeah, sports dates are just like that now, don’t get me started about the 2020 Copa Del Rey final — and the coronavirus pandemic isn’t looking likely to be over then, which has some people wondering if this is really such a great idea:

“Do you have to risk that? Risk by holding the Olympic Games? I don’t think so,” Kentaro Iwata, a prominent infectious diseases expert from Kobe University told Reuters.

“We are facing far more danger than last year, so why do you have to hold the Olympic Games, cancelled last year due to risk of infections, this year?”

And it’s not just public health experts: London’s former Olympic chief says Tokyo should be “making plans for a cancellation,” and more than 80% of Japanese residents say the Olympics won’t be able to be held as scheduled. (The poll just asked if the Games “can” be held, seemingly conflating the questions of whether they should or will be held, though maybe there’s some nuance that was lost in translation to English.) A final decision must be made by mid-March, and given the current spread of more highly transmissible forms of the virus plus the slow rollout of vaccines, it seems pretty unlikely that athletes from all over the world will be able to gather safely in Tokyo this summer.

The main reason not to cancel — other than that athletes have been training for this their whole lives, but that was the case during World War II as well — is the $15 billion that the Japanese government has already spent on staging the Olympics. That’s a sunk cost, though, and Japan isn’t getting any of that money back even if the Olympics are held this summer. While spending $15 billion on an event that never happens would be a bitter pill to swallow, spending even more on staging an event that could bring even more added costs from a renewed wave of virus spread — not to mention additional deaths — would be throwing good money after bad.

The next step would be addressing that bad spending in the first place, which seems to be starting to happen, anyway. Maybe a canceled 2020 Games would accelerate discussions of whether the current Olympic model is worth pursuing at all? Probably not, but it’s nice to dream.

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8 comments on “Maybe they should just cancel the Tokyo Olympics already, or all Olympics

  1. Here’s an idea. Separate World championships around the world in late 2021 over the course of say 5 months. Each sport would get more attention

    1. How would that help? You’d still have tons of athletes (and TV crews, etc.) traveling all over the world, just to multiple locations instead of one.

      1. Sure it would. Quarantine and vaccine athletes and TV crews for 1 week. Make sure everyone is negative Hold the event in a bubble like the NHL. Stagger events every other week after another. Let it go on for 5 months. Each sport type (cycling) will get TLC

  2. Perhaps they can shrink the field by just having the individual sports that get no attention except once every 4 years during the Olympics — Track & Field, Gymnastics, Swimming, etc. Cancel the team sports, such as Soccer, Basketball, Baseball, which have their own league play. If they get the field down to a small enough manageable size, then they can test everyone before and after they travel to Tokyo, and daily during the competition, and hopefully avoid spreading to the community. They still earn all the TV revenue, which I think is the biggest source of revenue.

  3. Maybe ask Paris and LA if they want to push out hosting for a cycle and move the Olympics in Tokyo to 2024? Else just cancel it.

  4. And it looks like it’s trending that way. Update: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-cancellation-idUSKBN29Q34X

    1. It is really the only rational solution given the conditions we are presently in and how this projects forward for the next 6-12 months at least.

      Maybe they can hastily award Tokyo a future games to replace the 2020 ones. It won’t be “the same”, and perhaps some of the facilities will no longer be suitable by 2032 (or whenever), but I don’t see another workable solution.

  5. To be honest, I care nothing about the Olympics ( except hockey ( I did watch USA/Canada ladies hockey final but that was it)). They have become like the Oscars, irrelevant to most people For me, if the choice is Olympics on NBC @ 8;00 or Yankees, baseball wins every time ( I get MLB TV and NHL TV so I can see sports I care about ( NOT Track and Field or Figure Skating)). Without the US versus the USSR most people who are sports fans simply do not care.

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