Sport | Columnists
Every four years, the global media runs a string of copy in the build-up to the Olympic Games, offering long lists of reasons why the latest edition could and should be cancelled or moved.
Barring standard hiccups, generally those fears fizzle to nothing and the multi-sport showpiece goes ahead as planned.
This year, however, the threat is real.
About as real as it has been in more than 70 years.
While the Games were scratched during both World War I and World War II, with the desperate need to save lives taking understandable precedence, the latest imminent threat to the quadrennial spectacle has been imposed by a virus that affectsmost people with little more than a cough.
It’s a strange comparison to make, between a war and a virus, and that’s because there’s no real link between the two.
Except for one: The coronavirus could be as destructive to the hopes and dreams of athletes around the world as historically brutal battles in which millions have lost their lives.
But it’s just a virus, right? Why all the fuss?
The truth is, from a sporting perspective, the damage is already done.
As health officials remind us to wash our hands, and the world fights off an invisible airborne beast by trying not to sneeze on one other, the fate of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics looks to be sealed.
Even if they found a way to herd tens of thousands of athletes, managers, coaches, officials, volunteers and media into Tokyo ahead of the Games in July (forgetting the possibility of additional spectators), that would be just the first step on a very long “to do” list.
Already there are Olympic qualifying events which are in doubt, with multiple top-flight sports tournaments and leagues being postponed or cancelled, with more borders shutting down every week in an attempt to contain the virus.
Making late changes to the qualifying criteria for the various sports would be an immense task in itself, and planned training camps will have to be reassessed due to travel restrictions.
With so much hanging in the air, it seems unreasonable to expect athletes to prepare for the Games sufficiently, let alone compete in a global multi-sport event which is going to require more logistical magic to put together than even the mighty city of Tokyo could be expected to muster.
Perhaps the coronavirus will be contained and controlled and the Games will go ahead, but at this stage it seems more likely that the Olympics will join the pile of events dumped on the scrapheap that is becoming the 2020 sports season.
International reports have suggested that the Games could be moved, while others claim that the event could be postponed for a couple of years, yet others suggest it could be cancelled, and the hosts insist all is going ahead as planned.
We should probably start preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
At least, looking at the bigger picture, we’re battling a virus and we’re not locked in a world war.
Some battles are harder to win than others.
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