Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics: will they go on?

It's arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, but will it make an apperance?

Elizabeth Meade
27th March 2021
Twitter @Olympics
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, originally scheduled for Summer 2020, were cancelled. The IOC is planning to try again this year, this time with one major change: the games may not have a live audience.

Originally scheduled for 23 July-8 August and 24 August-5 September respectively, the Olympics and Paralympics might not go on at all. If they take place, there is debate over how they should be presented.

IOC President Thomas Bach says that 'a safe and secure' Olympics will happen this year. 'The question is not whether, the question is how these Olympic Games will take place', he said. Bach was re-elected as IOC President on Wednesday in a 93-1 vote before he made these statements, and will serve until 2025. While he wishes to make a decision on spectators as soon as possible, others disagree. Earlier this year Lord Coe, World Athletics President, spoke out. '[I]f the only way we're able to deliver it is behind closed doors, I think everybody is accepting of that', he believes.

Additionally, former chief executive Sir Keith Mills weighed in as well: 'If I was sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I'm sure they have plans for a cancellation. They've got another month or so before they need to make a call'.

The matter gets even more complex. Many Paralympic athletes have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19; there is the question of whether travel is safe for them. China's Olympic Committee has offered to provide vaccines for all athletes at both the Tokyo Games and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The IOC would cover those for Paralympic athletes plus two more doses per athlete for their respective countries' citizens. The games themselves are even becoming more complicated: surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding, karate, freestyle BMX, madison cycling, and 3x3 basketball have been added. Baseball and softball are returning too. In the Paralympics, badminton and taekwondo will replace 7-a-side football and sailing. Between ensuring player safety and putting together the event in the first place, organizing an Olympics is harder than ever.

Japan's government and a recent poll suggest a desire to exclude spectators from outside the country, although the IOC has not yet made the decision. A formal decision is expected by the end of March. While an Olympics and Paralympics without spectators would be disappointing, it is imperative that safety come first for such a large event.

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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Meade
Science sub-ed and Chemistry major. Avid reader. Chaos theorist. Amateur batrachologist and historian. Rock fan. Likes cybersecurity and cooking.

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