As the Tokyo Olympics looms in less than 100 days, and I read about the fourth wave of coronavirus infections and less than 1 per cent vaccination rate in Japan, I am alarmed that the Games may be postponed or cancelled. That would be a loss to Japan, to a generation of athletes and to humanity.
Covid-19 has changed the world, forcing us to reimagine the status quo.
In the same way, Covid-19 compels us to reimagine Tokyo 2020. Here is one possibility: Tokyo+ 2020.
Instead of having Japan organise all the sporting events and bear the risks of having more than 14,000 athletes on its soil, a few more countries should be invited to host different sports.
Japan could lead the Games as the chief host, with most of the major sports held in the country.
Other willing countries could be supporting hosts, with each hosting a few sports.
These supporting hosts should have Covid-19 under control in their countries, and a reputation for being able to implement events in a short timeframe.
There are several advantages to this proposition.
By distributing the Games’ sporting events in different countries, the number of athletes and infection risks can be better managed.
This way, the Games can go on this year, and athletes, volunteers and citizens of these countries would be better protected.
The athletes who have trained so hard would be able to take the stage, and a global audience could celebrate sporting breakthroughs.
On the flip side, this proposition would mean that sponsorship money and economics of the Olympics need to be sorted out.
Perhaps Japan and/or the International Olympic Committee can have a percentage of the revenue generated in all host countries.
The speed needed to conceptualise, strategise, implement and communicate the right information to sponsors, sporting bodies and athletes globally will be crucial.
An important ingredient for success will be for collaborative-minded organising committees in Japan and the host countries to work well together.
These considerations are much more manageable compared with Japan running the risk of having more Covid-19 cases, which would overwhelm its healthcare system.
As it stands, 70 per cent of Japanese want the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled or delayed. Going ahead without public support may widen the rift in the country.
Furthermore, if the Games are postponed or cancelled at the last minute, it will be a blow to the global sporting community, and Japan’s reputation will be irreversibly marred as it carries the blame for a failed Olympics.
I really hope the Olympics will go on safely, and that my friends who have been dedicating years training for them will be able to participate.
Wendy Tan Siew Inn