Deja Vu: Not the First Time Olympics Might Get Cancelled in Tokyo

If Tokyo 2020 gets cancelled, it would be first time the event will be called off due to public health emergency.

Published
Olympic Sports
3 min read
If the 2020 Tokyo Olympics get cancelled, it would be the first time that the sports event will be called off due to public health emergency.
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With the outbreak of coronavirus, already becoming a public health emergency of international concern, the fate of the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital of Tokyo hangs in balance.

In 2013, when Tokyo was selected as the venue for 2020 edition, it joined an elite list of cities which have hosted the Olympic games more than once. The list includes London, Paris, Los Angeles, Athens. Tokyo had earlier hosted the Olympics in 1964.

But seven years down the line, history is repeating itself.

The modern Olympics, which dates to 1896, have been cancelled only during wartime.

Apart from 1916 and 1944, the Olympics in 1940 was also cancelled and it was the Japanese capital which was stripped off as venue due to Japan’s war with China and the World War II.

The event was temporarily moved to Helsinki in Finland but eventually it got cancelled.

But if the Tokyo Olympics get cancelled this time around, it would be the first time that something like that would happen on grounds of public health emergency.

Four years ago, the Rio Games in Brazil went on as scheduled in 2016 despite the outbreak of the Zika virus.
IOC President Thomas Bach have repeatedly said they expect the Olympics to open on schedule.
IOC President Thomas Bach have repeatedly said they expect the Olympics to open on schedule.
(Photo: AP)

But all isn’t over for the 32nd edition of the Olympic Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach and Tokyo organisers have repeatedly said they expect the Olympics to open on schedule. Others have suggested the spreading virus could force cancellation, postponement or moving events to other cities.

The IOC issued a statement earlier on Tuesday expressing “full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, taking place from 24 July to 9 August 2020.”

Bach, then, made the unusual move of stepping out from the first day of a two-day meeting at IOC headquarters in Lausanne to make a statement.

“I would like to encourage all the athletes to continue their preparation for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with great confidence and with full steam.”
Thomas Bach, IOC President

Bach also praised a panel created last month that brings together the WHO, public authorities in Japan, and Olympic officials in Tokyo and Lausanne.

According to Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto the IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020
According to Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto the IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020
(Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Japan's Olympic minister said on Tuesday the contract to hold the Tokyo Games only specifies the event must be held during 2020.

Seiko Hashimoto's response to a question in the upper house of parliament implies the Olympics could be held later in the year and would not have to start on 24 July as planned. The Paralympics will open on 25 August.

“The IOC has the right to cancel the games only if they are not held during 2020. This can be interpreted to mean the games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”
Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Olympic minister

The fast-spreading virus has already claimed 12 lives in Japan and has shut down most schools, sports competitions and Olympic-related events in the country. The virus that started in China has been detected in at least 70 countries, with more than 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths reported.

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