By Rebeka Ogren
After last year’s Olympic Games were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the world looked forward to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021. In a rumored announcement by the Japanese government on Jan. 21, this hope came crashing down. The prime minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, allegedly issued a press conference in which he announced the “cancellation” of the Olympic Games because of the worldwide pandemic.
The Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, deny the allegations and insist the Olympics will still happen. Contradictory statements from various news outlets and sources that claim to be reliable about this subject are more examples of how powerful rumors are and how fragile fact checking can be.
In the history of the games, there has only ever been three cancellations since they began in 1896. The first was in 1916 during World War I. This competition was supposed to be held in Germany but in fear of conflict, they were canceled. Germany was then disinvited to the 1920 games in Belgium and the 1924 games in France.
The other two cancellations were fueled by rising tensions of World War II. History states that in 1940, Japan was supposed to be hosting the Summer and Winter Olympics. They forfeited their rights on behalf of their war with China. After this cancellation, Finland was said to be the new host.They canceled the 1940 games because of Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
In 1944, the Summer Olympics were to be held in London, and the Winter Olympics were to be hosted by Italy. They were canceled because of the ongoing war. London repositioned itself as the head of the 1948 games, restricting German and Japanese athletes from participating.
If halted, the 2021 Olympic Games would be the first cancellation not influenced by an ongoing war. There have been talks of the games being further postponed for as far off as 2032. The USA Today news team reported on the Jan. 22 IOC statement that the possibility of the 2021 Olympic Games being canceled was “categorically untrue,” meaning that false news was the source of anger for millions.
Head of the IOC Thomas Bach was noted for saying that they have no plan B.
“This is why we are fully committed to making these games safe and successful,” he said.
As it stands, the Tokyo government, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games are all working feverishly to maintain the July 23 start date that was designated last March.
According to Forbes, the 2020 Olympics also welcomed a few new sports to their roster: skateboarding, surfing, karate, sport climbing and the reinstatement of softball and baseball. But with every new addition comes the possibility of exposure in our COVID-19 world.
With Japan having over 400,000 confirmed cases for the disease, many spectators and athletes are wary. The implications of such a high-stakes environment could run the risk of creating a hot-spot for the spread.
When asked about safety measures for the July Olympics, Japanese officials said that they were going to start providing vaccinations to all of their citizens toward the end of February. For many, this information is not enough to feel secure in the plans to move forward.
Many athletes and spectators have expressed concerns about the vaccine and its ability to fight the new viral strain. If the Olympics are truly set for July 23, the calendar only allows for four to five months of restructuring to accommodate social distancing, testing, vaccinating, isolation and other precautions.
The future of the Summer Olympics are still a mystery to many. It is difficult to tell what is true and what is not. As of right now, the games will be happening. But if we have learned anything over the past year, it is that things are subject to change.