There is nothing like the Olympics to stir a nation and create overnight national heroes. Who will ever forget days like Super Saturday in London in 2012 when Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jess Ennis won gold medals for GB in 45 spectacular minutes? How I would love to have been in the London Stadium that night. The atmosphere was electric, and the outpouring of national pride lifted us all.
Since the Olympics were awarded to Tokyo, there have been an array of issues that have surfaced. In terms of the construction of the facilities to house the games there has been a range of allegations surface about low pay, overwork, mistreatment of migrant workers and a range of safety issues. All of this has been denied by the Japanese organisers. Then Covid put paid to the Games taking place in Summer 2020 as with the European Football Championship. Then the man responsible for the planning of the Games and the opening and closing ceremonies (Hiroshi Sasaki) had to resign after he made a derogatory comment about a popular Japanese entertainer, Naomi Watanabe, who he referred to as an ‘Olympig’ because of her body size.
Now we learn that the rate of new positive Covid cases is continuing to rise and the virus is spreading at a rapid pace in Japan. If the spread of infection accelerates due to the increased movement of people and effects of variants, the number of cases will soon exceed that of the third wave in Japan. The number of hospitalisations is rising rapidly. If this situation continues, Japan will face a health care crisis. Only last week Team GB’s preparation was thrown into chaos when six track and field athletes and two staff members had to self-isolate after a passenger on their flight tested positive for Covid.
Against this background, much of the hype and excitement that normally precedes an Olympics is missing. Added to that it looks likely that at many events there will be no spectators, which undermines the whole raison d’etre for the Games.
For all these reasons I think the International Olympic Committee should bite the bullet this week and defer the Games until Summer 2022. There will be no clash with the World Cup as that will be in November 2022 and so the revenues from TV and brands should not be affected, but then health issues should always take priority over commercial interests.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management.
KIMIMASA MAYAMA/EPA, Image – The Times