Japans Prime Minister Shinz Abe has insisted that this summers Olympic Games will go ahead as planned, despite the threat posed by the coronavirus. His remarks over the weekend caught many people by surprise as the global pandemic takes a firm grip in many countries, although he clarified his remarks by saying the final decision rests with the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
Currently, the Japanese stage of the Olympic torch relay is set to begin in the city of Fukishima on March 26th. However, the lighting of the torch in the spiritual home of the Games, Greece, took place over the weekend without any spectators present because of the threat of the virus. And plans to send scores of Japanese schoolchildren to attend the ceremony were abandoned. Equally the traditional relay of the torch through Greece will not take place either because of the risk that it was attract crowds to watch it.
Abe may be concerned about the final cost of the Games to his country if the Games do not go ahead. It has been estimated that the bill for the hosts will total 1.35 trillion yen (10.3 bn.), and most of this money has already been spent in building new stadiums and facilities, and upgrading the local infrastructure.
In reality though, it is difficult to see ow the Olympics can be staged as planned this summer. With many countries now in virtual lockdown, international travel has been virtually non-existent, so how athletes from overseas are going to reach Japan in the first place is a major problem, And, even if they do manage it, there is a heightened risk that some of them could have the virus and pass it on to fellow competitors, officials and the millions of people who would normally be expected to attend the events.
And then there is the condition of the athletes themselves to consider. Local restrictions mean that many of them either are in self-isolation are are not able to train as usual. Their training regimes have been designed so that they reach their peak during the Games itself. If, and when, they get back to training normally, it may take them weeks, or even months, to get back to optimum condition.
A Games without many of the athletes competing are where the majority are not at their best, will be severely devalued.