What felt like the last major sporting event to survive the coronavirus scourge finally fell to what has seemed for weeks like an inevitable fate. On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee finally announced that the Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be postponed by approximately one year.
In my last column, I wrote about the speculation surrounding the potential cancellation of the upcoming Olympics. Even after March 11, when the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a world pandemic, the IOC still maintained that it would wait until the end of May to make an official decision.
Clearly, that’s not the case anymore.
The IOC did everyone a favor by postponing the Olympics.
The virus’s spread doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon and it certainly doesn’t appear that holding a large gathering of thousands of fans from all over the world in the most populated city on the planet is a great idea. Starting the Olympics as scheduled would have turned the city into a virtual feeding frenzy for the virus.
From athletes to staff to fans, continuing the Olympics would have put thousands — if not tens or hundreds of thousands — of lives at risk by potentially exposing them to the coronavirus.
Still, despite the postponement’s obvious justifications, it is disappointing to see how long it took for the world to acknowledge just how serious COVID-19 is.
Almost two months ago, the United States reported its first case of the coronavirus, but for most Americans, the threat of a potential pandemic remained an afterthought. This ambivalence has led to predictably disastrous results, and the U.S. is now quickly becoming the epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 100,000 cases — the most of any country on the planet.
President Donald Trump recently released a statement saying how he expects everything to return to normal by Easter. Considering the unrelenting spread of the virus, this seems virtually impossible, nevermind irresponsible. In light of this public display of incompetence, the IOC’s decision appears even more reassuring.
Postponing the Olympics also sends a message to governments and politicians around the world. If they didn’t take it seriously before, if they still think the virus will pass without affecting them, perhaps the postponement of one of the biggest international events in the world — which had previously only ever been postponed or canceled due to world wars — will get their attention.
Lastly, if postponing the Olympics sends any message at all, hopefully it’s to the countless Americans that still don’t seem to be getting the memo. Across the country, people seem to be taking the cancellation of school and public life as we know it as an excuse to head outside and enjoy themselves, often with no acknowledgment of the recommended six feet of distance between each other that experts recommend.
Everyone, please wake up to the IOC’s message and take this seriously. The faster you do, the faster the Olympics will be back.
Nathan Hyun is a sophomore writing about the 2020 Olympics. His column, “Going for the Gold,” typically runs every other Wednesday.