For many of us, it would be unusual to think about cancelling the Olympics. The games, being at least 500 years old, have only ever been cancelled during times of war. But in the year 2021, we are living through history as we wait to hear news about the current Tokyo 2021 games. Is cancellation of one of the most exciting international sporting events the way to go as the COVID variants continue to rise?
The delayed Tokyo Olympics has cost Japan $15.4 billion; the overall cost has gone up by 22% since its original budget of $12.6 billion.
It has also been costly to make sure anyone participating in the upcoming Olympics will feel safe with extra COVID-19 protocols and measures.
The prime minister of Japan explained that if Japan’s situation gets better, then it is clear that the Olympics will be open as planned on July 23rd, with the Paralympics following closely on August 24th.
Previous marketing director of the IOC, Michael Payne explained to Forbes that there are four main categories of costs of hosting the Olympics.
One of the costs is for staging the games.For the summer games that overall cost is usually $3-4 billion. Other costs included building the sports facilities and building or upgrading other infrastructures like airports. Another set of costs is security.
Payne explains that a lot of those costs get paid for through ticketing and sponsorships, which of course dry up if the games are cancelled. That would leave Japan to foot the huge bill.
But as to the safety concerns, the International Olympic Committee is confident that the country is prepared. COVID measures were tested out at a test event held in Japan. Four international competitions were held at these test events involving volleyball, diving and marathon athletes. The test events involved more than 700 athletes and over 6,000 participating related staff members from all around the world. All of the events held followed strict COVID-19 protocols that protected the safety of anyone involved.
Tokyo president Seiko Hashimoto said in a board meeting that “Only one coach tested positive for coronavirus over the course of four test events with almost 7,000 visitors from some 50 countries.”
Kozo Yamamoto, head of Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, told Reuters, “Even baseball matches are being held currently with spectators. Why not go ahead with the Games?”
What is lost by cancelling the games is not just the cost, of course. BBC reporter Andreas Illmer writes that the last time Japan hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964 it was an important moment in the country’s growth and regeneration after World War II.
Illmer spoke with Professor Anderson from the University of Melbourne who explained that the current situation is similar: “Japan has seen economic stagnation for a long time, there has been the tsunami and the nuclear disaster of Fukushima, so the Games would be symbolic of a revival of Japan,” he says. “It does take a special importance in that sense.”
If in fact the games were to be cancelled, the psychological costs would extend to the athletes themselves. Not only would an athlete’s career be impacted, but
Sports Psychologist, Matthew Cunliffe reports, “that this would be somewhat like a grief cycle that athletes may go through. He suggested that athletes will go through stages of denial, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance of the present reality that they live in.
Cover Image: Flickr/ Dick Thomas Johnson