The vast majority of spring and summer sporting events have been postponed or outright canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak that is rapidly growing here in the United States. Every major sports league, along with major sports entities and events like the Kentucky Derby, have all either suspended operations or pushed dates back to the fall in hopes of seeing the coronavirus outbreak flatten out and a return to normalcy arrive sometime in the late summer.
There are questions about whether that timeline is even possible. The social distancing efforts are of major importance to flattening the curve and relieving the intense stress placed on hospitals and the healthcare infrastructure that is already struggling in areas like New York to handle the amount of cases they’re facing. However, it will not eradicate the virus and keep it from spreading again once people begin going back out into the world and interacting. As such, even those late summer and fall sporting events have reason to monitor the situation and prepare for the circumstance that they too need to postpone events.
The largest of those are the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, currently scheduled to begin on July 24, and given the pandemic we currently face it seems hard to imagine the Games going on as planned given they have to welcome not just athletes but fans from around the world in, and the virus being contained globally by that point seems, at best, slim. The IOC has insisted they want the Olympics to continue as planned, but, aside from an early warning that canceling the games was possible, offered their first public statement noting the possibility of pushing the Games back was real and must be considered on Sunday.
The IOC announced they were going to “step up scenario planning,” which seems to be just a way to officially state they are now publicly considering all options, including postponing the Olympics — something that they initially said they did not want to do. They also note that the decision is expected to be made in the next four weeks and that cancellation of the games is “not on the agenda.”
These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games. This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved.
They go on to note the logistical issues with postponing the Games, from fans with travel already booked to the fact that they would need cooperation from the various leagues and federations from around the world, as well as national Olympic committees, to adjust schedules and allow athletes to compete in Olympic competition during what would normally be other club and international competitions. It is, undoubtedly, a nightmare to do such planning and hopefully they have done more already in considering these options than is necessarily indicated in their statement.
It’s hard to see the scenario right now in which the Olympics go on as planned in July, but what the alternative option is and when it would take place will require an awful lot of moving parts coming together to make the Tokyo Games happen.