Those who, for reasons aplenty, no longer believe in upper-tier professional sport’s absolute and unimpeachable probity, cannot be inclined to put the most charitable construction upon the recent recent, emphatic declarations that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, shifted to next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, will not be put off a second time. It will have to be got on with this time around.
Both Japan and the International Olympic Committee agree on this but the come what may note in the determination to kick the Summer Games off on 23 July 2021 could for a lot of people imply shoring up the commercial side of the show after this year’s postponement, given that it is music to the ears of the travel, hospitality and some allied industries.
Doing pandemic-affected poor saps a good turn is okay but the reality of the Olympic Games is that the unambiguously expressed resolve ~ with or without a vaccine being found ~ risks a conflict with objective conditions, unless the world persuades itself to take it for granted that the coronavirus will make itself scarce to help the usually quadrennial showpiece along.
Even the “simplified version” of the Olympics that Japan is currently said to be attempting will call for 18,000 beds in the Games village for 30,000 people, 11,000 of them athletes from 206 countries. If the sheer numbers do not give Olympic busybodies the collywobbles, making them wonder if they are equal to the task, they should be deemed ideal candidates for looping garlands around the tiger in the zoo. But the details could explain why Japan has not talked about a bio-secure bubble. It will not fit the bill. Visitors, it is said, will be checked as they come in and alerted electronically against potentially harmful contacts. Not entirely wrongly, they are required to be responsible for their own safety.
But, reasonable as the functioning principle is, a Games village where everyone is turned in on himself, or herself, in fear of the coronavirus will be an additional feature of the abnormalities that mark sport now, a world away from the freedom, even the promiscuity, that has traditionally helped athletes breathe easy off the field. A longer wait could restore the old spirit and ways but when priorities are skewed, grim conformity will have to be the new normal. And, through the Olympic fortnight, anxiety will elbow excitement out of the Games experience. It will be a sad world that wakes up on the inaugural day.