Questions raise about 2020 Olympics as coronavirus persists

By KATIE SUTPHIN
On March 11, 2020

Photo courtesy of Danny Choo, Flickr

The world’s most renowned sporting mega-event, the Olympic Games, are a little over 100 days away. This year, the Summer 2020 Games are scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan on July 24 through Aug. 9.  

However, one question has risen among fans of the event. Will the fast-spreading coronavirus force a postponement, or possibly even a cancellation? A decision like this would be unprecedented, but may be necessary for the safety of fans, athletes, coaches and workers.  

The news has been flooded with horror stories of coronavirus (COVID-19). As of now, there have been 4,000 deaths from over 100,000 known cases worldwide. According to medical professionals, the virus only has a four percent death rate, with fatality being more common in older people with already compromised health.  

Although the virus is not killing every victim, it is fast-spreading and creating a global pandemic, resulting in high anxiety amongst many.  

In the United States alone, case numbers are almost doubling each day. The scary part about this is that doctors and physicians are now having trouble finding links between confirmed cases and new victims. In other words, new victims of the virus have had no known contact with pre-existing cases, making everyone uneasy; potentially, everyone is at risk.  

Since the biggest problem at hand is stopping the spread of this untreatable virus, highly populated activities and events are being questioned. Many schools and colleges around the country have closed and taken up remote classes as a way to stay safe and healthy while minimizing the spread. Sporting events and community activities linked to these facilities have also been postponed for the time being.

It is somewhat easy to postpone small community events, but the biggest global sporting event of all time? Are the Olympics too big of an event to cancel? To contradict that, are they too big, meaning they involve too many people, not to cancel, for the sake of health? As of right now, these questions are still up in the air. 

Japan is currently playing the situation by ear. Many researchers and physicians are hoping that the virus will die down in the summer months after it hits its peak. There are also hopes that by July, there could be a vaccine or a cure. In essence, the Olympic board and the Japanese authorities do not want to make any rash or premature decisions.

Another option that is being thrown around is hosting the Games with no fans. Having 10,000 athletes compete in front of empty stadiums and bleachers sounds disappointing, but it might be necessary in order to ensure the health and safety of these athletes and their coaches -- not to mention the local Japanese people who work and organize the Games.

This trend of having sporting events with no fans may just become the new norm in 2020 for all events, not just the Olympic Games.  

Mass populated events are now a risk factor because of the speed that the virus is spreading. It takes 24 hours for symptoms to surface, meaning that people with the virus do not show symptoms for the first day and go about their daily lives. Another concern is the fact that the virus lives on surfaces for 48 hours. Both of these realities are enhancing the spread and making it hard to isolate the virus to confirmed cases.

Other concerns for the Games, even with no fans, would be the athletes. Each person involved in the games, whether they be an athlete or a coach, would have to go through extensive screenings upon arrival, especially for those involved in contact sports. Airports are also high-risk locations, which provokes yet another problem in trying to have a global event in the midst of such a fast-spreading pandemic. 

Hopefully, within the next couple of months these questions will be answered and people will find some peace in knowing the details of the situation. In the meantime, the Olympic board is urging athletes to keep training and assuring fans to keep their hopes up. They are praying that by the time the Games roll around, the pandemic will have passed along with the colder seasons.  

 

ksutphin@ramapo.edu

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