The Tokyo Games are coming at us like Noah Lyles around the turn in the 200 meters; they’ll be on us in a blink. Now imagine being in your athletic prime in the years 2020 and 2021 and being an Olympic-sport athlete to boot, like Mr. Lyles. I feel so sorry for such potential Olympians as Japan struggles with whether to host the already delayed 2020 Games from 23 July to 8 August 2021.
With only 2% of the Japanese population vaccinated against COVID-19, there is a real danger that a gathering meant to bring the world into closer harmony instead could turn into a very real pandemic super-spreader health risk. To bastardize Billy Shakespeare, “To go or not to go, that is the question.”
Two days ago the U. S. State Department and CDC both issued recommendations against traveling to Japan this summer. But what would you do if Tokyo 2020(1) just happened to coincide with your prime Olympic opportunity? What would you do if your future earnings were predicated on Olympic team inclusion? Ask members of the boycotted 1980 American Olympic team whether or not missing the Moscow Games had any impact on their careers. And notwithstanding the dominance of East African distance runners in modern times, some might forget how the politically motivated Olympic boycotts of 1976 and 1980 cost the distance running nations of East Africa a generation of heroes.
We know damn well the IOC has far too many billions of dollars riding on their Games for them to call them off. If anyone has to do it, it will be the Japanese government itself. But then recall how the 1964 Tokyo Olympics represented Japan’s full return to the international community after World War II. So we know how historically important the Olympics are to the Japanese people. Yet polls indicate 80% of the Japanese population doesn’t want the world to show up in 2021
Today (27 May 2021) an AP report quoted Dr. Naoto Ueyama, chairman of the Japan Doctors Union, as saying the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government had underestimated the risks of bringing thousands of Olympic and Paralympic athletes into the country, along with tens of thousands of officials, judges, media and broadcasters from more than 200 countries and territories.
“Since the emergence of COVID-19 there has not been such a dangerous gathering of people coming together in one place from so many different places around the world,” he said, speaking in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “It’s very difficult to predict what this could lead to.”
Both the virus itself, and the current Olympic model, are stark illustrations of the consequences of uncontrolled growth. Global population (or flat-earth population for those of that persuasion- another indication of a world gone off the rails) didn’t reach one billion until the first decade of the 1800s. It took another 120-plus year before it reached two billion in 1927. But from then on, watch out.
We hit three billion in 1960, four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999, and seven billion in October 2011 or March 2012, depending on your data source. Eight billion is projected between 2024–2030 and nine billion by 2035–2050.
Viruses spread ruthlessly through a highly mobile yet shrinking, more densely populated world. And except for LA ‘84, which utilized already existing infrastructure, the modern Olympics have beggared host governments and dwarfed whatever Baron Pierre de Coubertin envisioned in 1896 when the Olympics entered the modern era.
But how do you keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen the big city? There is far too much money to be made, except for the athletes of course, for the greed not to manifest itself once again, regardless of the consequences. As the Wicked Witch of the East said so succinctly as she melted away near the end of the Wizard of Oz, “What a world, what a world.”