Athletes from around the world take part in the mega event once every four years.
In a major blow last year, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the inception of the Olympics, the Tokyo edition is the first one to be postponed rather than being cancelled. Previously, certain editions were cancelled due to World War I and II.
Now, the chances of holding the Games in July 2021 also look bleak due to the resurgence of COVID-19. Owing to this, North Korea became the first country to pull out its contingent from Tokyo 2020 on 25th March. They cited pandemic fears as the reason for pulling out from the Games. Moreover, cancelling the already postponed Olympics remains a possibility due to a tremendous rise in the number of cases worldwide.
Recently, Japan declared a third state of emergency due to the pandemic. They imposed new restrictions in Tokyo and a few other cities. Last month, the organizers announced that no International fans will be allowed to attend the Summer Games.
The Olympic Torch Relay has been rerouted from public roads due to an increase in the number of cases. Also, the mascots have not been on full public display fearing the spread of the virus. However, the organizers and IOC President, Thomas Bach have consistently insisted that the Games will take place as planned.
People in favour of cancellation
According to a Kyodo News poll, 24.5% of the Japanese public believe that the Olympics should go forward as planned. Meanwhile, 39.2% believe they should be cancelled and 32.8% want the games to be rescheduled.
Another aspect that brings forth the uncertainty of the Games is that Japan is lagging behind in vaccination. According to the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, only 0.69% of Japan’s population is fully vaccinated till now. Health officials have suggested that almost 50-70% of the population needs to be vaccinated for the Olympics to take place safely.
Many countries are still in lockdown. They have also imposed restrictions on movement and travel. With about 15,000 athletes and match officials expected to travel to Japan, the residents are worried about a further spike in the number of infections.
Moreover, the vaccination process for many athletes in different countries has not started yet. Therefore, everyone is pondering whether the event will happen or not.
What will happen if the Tokyo Olympics get cancelled?
Securing a successful Olympic bid is big business, which Tokyo won on September 7, 2013. Tokyo had also hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics. In 2012, the President of the Japanese Olympic Committee stated that hosting the games would generate $2 billion for Tokyo. However, according to Business Insider, the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics have come up to be the most expensive Summer Olympics on record with costs up to $25 billion.
Over $1 billion is to come from ticket sales. This would be lost if the games go ahead without fans. According to Statista, the Japanese government would face a loss of 4.5-5.1 billion Japanese Yen if the Tokyo Olympics get cancelled.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) generates almost 75% of its income from broadcasting rights. Cancellation of the Tokyo Games would not only affect the cash flow of the IOC, but could also tarnish the Olympics’ brand image.
According to a Reuters report, the IOC takes out almost $800m in insurance for each Summer Games. This covers the $1 billion investment it makes in each host city. In addition, the Tokyo Olympics are insured for around $2 billion, which included television rights and hospitality. In case the event gets cancelled, insurers will suffer losses up to $5-6 billion.
It has become even more difficult to cancel the Olympics as the organizers have already collected huge sponsorship amounts from various companies. The implications of cancellation are not only financial but also come with psychological and moral consequences. Athletes all around the world will be affected and hurt the most if the Games do not take place.
Mental stress on athletes
The athletes endure a lot of financial and mental stress to secure a berth at the quadrennial event. They work hard to perform at their best to win a medal. It would be a bigger loss for athletes who have qualified but won’t be able to prove their mettle due to uncontrollable challenges.
The cancellation would be devastating financially and professionally for younger athletes, especially those in their teens, who are looking forward to making their Olympic debut. An athlete’s age matters the most in sports. With the Olympics taking place once in four years, the athletes would be saddened the most if the Tokyo Games get cancelled.
Despite the alarming rise of COVID-19, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is positive and declared on January 4 that the staging of the Games will prove that humanity has defeated the virus.