Let the Games begin — just not this year.
It would be absurd for anyone, let alone the International Olympic Committee, to pretend the COVID-19 pandemic is in our rearview mirror now that vaccines are beginning to roll out.
The reality is the world remains trapped in the middle of the worst health crisis of modern times, and it would be foolhardy to risk turning the largest sporting spectacle on the planet into a global superspreader event.
Yet, the IOC continues to insist it is moving full speed ahead with the Tokyo Games, set to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8 after being postponed last March when the novel coronavirus struck much of the world.
It would not be an act of courage to proceed with the Olympics and Paralympics against the backdrop of the pandemic’s surging second wave.
Six months out from the planned start of the Games, with Tokyo under a state of emergency and fears Japan’s medical system is on the brink of collapse, the time has come to show real courage by pulling the plug on an event that is just not worth the risk.
A report last Thursday in The Times of London stated Japan’s government had "privately concluded" to cancel the 2021 Games and focus on another bid in 2032, but IOC president Thomas Bach quickly and firmly denied the Games are in jeopardy.
"We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo," Mr. Bach told the Japanese news agency Kyodo. He also declared, as if it were a badge of honour, that there is "no Plan B."
Considering the mounting death tolls around the world, it is shameful to be told Olympic organizers do not have a backup plan. In the middle of a pandemic, they should be armed with plans A through Z.
The Japanese people are clearly losing interest in hosting these Games, as recent polls show 80 per cent of the Japanese public believes the Olympics should not happen with virus cases surging — or will not happen.
The Olympics can be inspiring, but no one should consider putting even one life on the line simply to provide entertainment for the masses and bragging rights for whoever claims the most gold.
Canadian Richard Pound, a former IOC vice-president, has suggested prioritizing athletes for the COVID-19 vaccine as the "most realistic way" of ensuring the Games can take place this summer. The notion of letting athletes jump the queue — at a time when immunizations in many nations are either not happening or proceeding at a sluggish pace — is not just wrong-headed; it is shameful.
It has been suggested these Games could be a largely TV-only event, no doubt influenced by the fact the IOC earns 73 per cent of its revenue from selling broadcast rights, meaning it could lose up to $3 billion if the Olympics are cancelled.
Despite their protests to the contrary, organizers can still reshuffle the Olympic lineup, delaying Tokyo until 2024, then moving the Paris Games to 2028 and L.A. to 2032. That would make an excellent "Plan B."
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has stoically declared the Tokyo Games will offer "proof of human victory against the coronavirus." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Human victory over this virus will not be determined by the number of people with gold medals hung around their necks, but by the number of people with vaccines injected in their arms.