Should the Olympics happen in 2021?

(Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

By Ben Chan, staff writer

As of May 5, 2021, the Summer Olympics are set to happen from July 23, 2021 to August 8, 2021. This event usually happens every four years with about 10,000 athletes competing in total. However, with COVID-19 already postponing the event by an entire year, many have strong opinions about whether or not the Olympics are a safe event to host.

As of right now, there is an average of 800,000 cases of COVID-19 daily across the world. These numbers have never been higher, and new records are being broken daily. Tokyo, Japan, the city slated to hold the 2021 Summer Olympics, is averaging around 900 COVID-19 cases daily, while the entire country as a whole is averaging 4,000 COVID-19 cases daily.

Japan also had to declare a state of emergency on May 7, 2021 due to its alarming rise in COVID-19 cases. This state of emergency is projected to end on May 31, 2021, and officials still say the Olympics are set to start on July 23.

Vaccination rates across the world are also rather low, mostly seen in developing countries. Kenya for example, whose Olympics team usually figures prominently in summer games, only has about 1.59 percent of its population fully vaccinated, and a study in April saw that “less than two percent of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines [were] administered in Africa.”

Japan, the country holding the Summer Olympics, also only has a shockingly low 0.8 percent of its population fully vaccinated. Several public polls in Japan also showed that a majority preferred the Olympics to be postponed or even cancelled considering the current COVID-19 conditions.

So, with all of these high COVID rates and low vaccination rates, why hasn’t the International Olympics Committee called off the Olympics?

Well, Japan has spent well over $25 billion on hosting the 2021 Summer Olympics, so cancelling the games is at the bottom of the list for them. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are also right around the corner, and Toshiro Muto, the organizing committee’s chief executive, said “it would be difficult to find another window.”

A large amount of guidelines have also been put in place, like masks, avoiding crowds, etc. On March 20, the International Olympic Committee announced that “no overseas spectators will be allowed at the Games, even if vaccinated.” Athletes will also have to be tested daily and avoid large crowds and gatherings. These regulations and restrictions are pretty similar to what’s being seen in the NBA right now, which are working quite well.

I personally believe going forward with the Summer Olympics as scheduled isn’t necessarily the worst idea healthwise. It most certainly is true that COVID-19 is running rampant throughout the world and vaccination rates are rather low. However, considering the various precautions taken from the IOC, they’re trying everything they can to host these games as safely as possible. It certainly is a large risk, but I personally think it’s a risk that should be taken.

But, economically, this is a terrible idea. Maria Carrillo High School junior James Altenberg stated, “I’d love to see the Olympics happen this year…But so much money would be lost.”

This is entirely true. Money gained from hosting the Olympics would be at an all time low. In the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, about 5.6 billion was made off fans and sales relating to fans, out of the total nine billion in revenue. However, with COVID and restrictions, it can only be assumed that there will be a larger deficit in sales. On top of that, the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics experienced one of the biggest net losses in all Olympics history, at a startling $2 billion. 

On top of economics, consider that training is all over the place as well. The U.S Wheelchair Rugby team had to wait 11 months for their first training camp due to COVID-19. This leaves the team only about five months to train for the Paralympics, which start August 24. This type of delay is not completely unseen across the Olympics as well, where training facilities were shut down for months. The Tokyo Games are about 80 days away, while the “U.S Olympic & Paralympic Training Center only opened last month.” This is completely different from the previous Olympics, where athletes usually get months, maybe years to train in specific facilities.

All in all, the Olympics are a great event that we get to see every four years. It highlights the strengths and weaknesses of different countries, and overall we get to see a friendly competition between the nations. However, this year, COVID-19 has completely changed the Olympics, and although it makes sense that they play this risk during COVID-19, economically, this would not work at all.

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