The Summer Olympics are finally returning in July and the whole world is anxious to see their favorite athletes compete again. I've especially been looking forward to watching the U.S. Women's Soccer Team add another championship to their collection, as well as seeing the long-awaited return of softball to the world stage. However, I also want to see my favorite athletes stay safe –– and with the current status of the pandemic, holding the Olympics this summer is a bad idea.
The 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed last spring in a joint decision by Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan. The IOC and Japanese leadership moved the event to 2021 due to the acceleration of COVID-19.
As of now, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled to kick off this summer. The Olympics will start on July 23 and conclude on Aug. 8, while the Paralympics will follow from Aug. 24 to Sep. 5. Former Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori told the media in January that the Olympics will go on “regardless of how the coronavirus [situation] looks.”
This decision to hold the Olympics at any cost is dangerous for the athletes, employees, spectators and Tokyo residents if COVID-19 is not fully under control. Given the trajectory of Japan’s vaccine rollout and the severe regulations that the IOC will have to implement in order to make the event as safe as possible, the smartest decision would be to further postpone the Olympics until the summer of 2022.
Tokyo and other prefectures in Japan have been under a state of emergency for the past three months, and cases are on the rise again after they had recently been declining. With hospitals overwhelmed and rationing care, it seems irresponsible to go forward with the Olympic games—especially given Japan’s slow pace of vaccinations.
Japan did not begin vaccinating its population until mid-February, which was over two months after the U.S. and the U.K., and six weeks after the World Health Organization approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Despite the awareness that they would be hosting a major global event this summer, Japan has lagged behind in the vaccine rollout; as of Mar. 16, Japan has only administered under 300,000 doses, compared to over 26 million doses in the U.K. and over 110 million doses in the U.S. Japan’s vaccination timeline does not provide much hope for a significant portion of the population to be fully vaccinated by the start of the Olympics.
Vaccinations will also not be mandatory for athletes competing in the Olympics, which could put not only the athletes themselves, but all employees and community members who interact with them at risk.
If the Olympics do go on as scheduled, it will be a vastly different experience for both athletes and fans. Athletes hoping to compete in the Olympics have faced countless obstacles and uncertainties over the last year, with constantly changing training routines, canceled competitions and isolation from teammates and coaches. At the Olympic Games themselves, many of the experiences athletes look forward to—the athlete villages, sightseeing, celebrating victories and socializing with other athletes—will all be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Tokyo 2020 Committee has yet to formally announce if they will limit attendance or restrict foreign spectators, but those are both likely options that will drastically change the fan experience. Fans from around the world gathering in one place is part of what makes the Olympics so special; this could likely happen safely in 2022, but it is not realistic to expect a global audience in the stands this summer.
With about 80 percent of Japanese residents now opposed to the Olympics being held this summer, the most logical option is to postpone them one more year. Holding an event of that size without a promising vaccination timeline is reckless and could lead to another large surge of COVID-19 cases, which nobody wants.
If the Olympics are pushed back to 2022, they would be part of a full year of Olympic Games with the Winter Olympics occurring half a year before. This could be a monumental event that fully celebrates a global victory over the pandemic without having the heavy restrictions and safety concerns that will likely ensue this summer.
This is the opinion of Ellie Kinney, a junior communication studies major from Boston, Massachusetts. Tweet comments to @LAloyolan or email comments to email@example.com.