Japan has announced that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead under a state of emergency and without any spectators at events in the capital in an attempt to prevent another nationwide outbreak of COVID-19.
Athletes, staff, media, and other participants will be kept in a “bubble.”
Other areas outside the capital that are hosting events may have some spectators, Japanese media have reported, and organizers may seek exceptions to allow VIP guests, including members of the International Olympic Committee, corporate sponsors, and foreign dignitaries. (To me, this makes no sense; either ban everyone or no one. But I guess money, and rank, have their privileges).
I am sure this was a tough decision, as Japan was counting on these Olympics to demonstrate that the country is “back” after decades of economic stagnation and a 2011 triple disaster that brought a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. They were meant to showcase the country’s place as both a tech powerhouse and competent organizer of international extravaganzas.
Financially, it seems as if Japan is destined to take a big loss, and I feel bad for all those who spent so much time and energy putting this spectacle together.
So far, one athlete, Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios, has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, saying playing without spectators “doesn’t feel right.”
It will be interesting to see if more athletes follow suit.
From my perspective, it seems like a weak excuse.
Perhaps part of it is my background as a swimmer. First, it is generally a low-volume spectator sport, and second, most of the time your head is in the water, making it difficult to hear the four fans who might be cheering you on (thanks, Mom, Dad, Aunt Eileen, and Mary!).
I didn’t swim for the adulation of fans, and my guess very few Olympic athletes do.
They do it for the love of competition, for the chance to set a personal best, for the experience of being with athletes from around the world.
They do it for the Olympic motto:
Citius – Altius – Fortius.
Faster – Higher – Stronger.
Fans in the stands would just be icing on the cake.
But the athletes can rest assured that there will be millions of fans watching them on TV, myself included.
So yes, if you win a gold medal, it really happened…