Should Japan cancel the Olympics?

By: Rick C. Gabuya - Columnist/CDN Digital | March 02,2020 - 07:00 AM

In less than four months, the most anticipated sports spectacle will open in Japan. And for the entire fortnight, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is expected to hog headlines after the hosts promised an impressive staging of the quadrennial Games which it also hosted in 1964.

Estimates vary as to how much the hosts are spending for the Games. Japanese media have put the hosting bill at $12.4 billion while international news organizations are putting the expenses much, much higher. 

The Los Angeles Times, for example, said Japan would be spending more than $26 billion to stage the Summer Olympics. 

Whichever is true, both estimates are still way higher than the $7.6 billion the International Olympic Committee has estimated in 2013 when it selected the Japanese capital as the Games’ 2020 venue.

Japan is reportedly still upbeat of recouping its huge expenditures via sponsorships, gate receipts and other profit-oriented schemes related to the Games.

Reports said the bulk of the budget was being used in building impressive infrastructure such as the massive Olympic Stadium, the Athletes’ Village as well as satellite venues for the other events that could not be accommodated at the main stadium. New hotels are said to have been built also as well as more parks and roads.

From this perspective alone, it is already safe to say that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is green and go.


Flashback to December 2019. Top Chinese officials revealed an emerging coronavirus strain which is said to have emanated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Although less deadly than other viruses, the new strain spreads just as rapidly. The World Health Organization has named it coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 .


Since December when it was first announced until Sunday, COVID-19 has already infected nearly 87,000 people in 60 countries. Of this number, 7,000 are from outside mainland China with South Korea having the most number of cases with 3,736 as of Sunday. Iran has 987 confirmed cases with 54 deaths and has been the center of the virus’s infection in the region.

Overall, the death toll has almost breached 3,000 as world leaders scramble to find effective ways to contain the virus. Some have opted for more drastic ways such as issuing travel bans and shutting off their borders from the outside world.

Japan which will host the Olympics in four months’ time has 218 total cases as of February 29 with 12 deaths. But unlike neighboring South Korea, Japan has not seen a spike in coronavirus cases lately.

Postpone or cancel?

Even then, calls to have the Games postponed or cancelled are mounting each day that a cure has yet to be found, with sports experts more likely to favor the second option. 

They reasoned that athletes prepare for big international tournaments months before the big day. They program their training in such a way that by the time the big meet arrives, their bodies are already in tip-top condition to ensure optimum performance to have a shot at that coveted Olympic medal. A postponement would only put all their efforts into disarray.

I can only imagine the frustration of the hosts should a cancellation be decided upon. The billions of dollars already spent, the years of planning and preparation, and the anticipation of both athletes and sports enthusiasts to witness a modern-day Olympics unfold in one of the most progressive countries in the world. All these are going down the drain because of an invisible enemy.

With the escalating number of COVID-19 cases recorded every day, the rising death toll and the recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) raising its global risk assessment over COVID-19 to the highest level, just stopping short of declaring it a pandemic, it’s quite clear that the Tokyo Games is doomed.

The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching. The global economy has slowed down, tourism is almost non-existent, and now, the most anticipated sports event is about to be added to the gloomy statistic.

Now to the dreaded question: Should Japan cancel the 2020 Summer Games because of COVID-19?

Cebuano sports personalities

To help us straighten our perspective about the whole issue, I asked three Cebuano sports personalities about their take on the simmering topic.

One is an Olympian who is currently deep in training for the Tokyo Games, the other a noted sportsman and a great supporter of grassroots sports while the third is a basketball legend and a key figure in Philippine sports.

Mary Joy Tabal — she is the country’s first female long-distance runner to have run in the Olympics. She also admitted that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc to her bid to qualify for the Tokyo Games. 

You see, the International Olympic Committee has tagged several marathons worldwide as qualifying races for Tokyo. But because of the COVID-19 threat, Mary Joy Tabal is now running out of time to punch a ticket to Japan. That’s because the qualifying races for the 2020 Summer Games have been cancelled one after the other due to the pneumonia-inducing disease. Here’s Joy’s take:

“Every child’s dream, every athlete’s dream is to play in the Olympics, and when the right time comes, that dream becomes a goal, a goal to prepare for four years, so each Olympics has different stories and different goals. 

“For this time, if the Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled, my goal for 2020 can be changed but never my dream to play for the Olympics, and my greatest foundation will always be that dream, so I will just wait for the next Olympics.

“I just hope that should they cancel the Tokyo Olympics, it is because of the safety and health of everybody.”

Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez — the four-time PBA MVP has been at the forefront of the country’s preparations for the Olympics and other big, international meets being an active commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission. 

The good commissioner said cancelling the Olympics would greatly affect not only the athletes but the sports enthusiasts too who have been waiting with bated breath for the four-year Olympic cycle to conclude. Here’s what Mon says:

“It would be a “double whammy” of sorts for the athletes and the sports enthusiasts!  I just hope that it clears up by April.”

Edward Hayco — He is popularly known as the “Father of Dancesport” in Cebu, responsible for the sport’s soaring popularity here. In fact, two of his wards bagged three gold medals in the recent SEA Games. But more than that, he is also known as the father-figure for the hundreds of young athletes fostered by the Cebu City Sports Institute.

Calm and soft-spoken, the sportsman nonpareil turned combative when posed with the question about the looming cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Here’s Sir Ed’s take:

“In a sea of panic and paranoia, let sports be a beacon of calm and hope. We should proceed with the Olympics! Thru sports, proceeding with the Olympics sends a firm and strong message to the world. 

“That, much as the fear and concern are both real, we, as a community of sports, should have the courage to keep fighting, keep moving on! And should never be consumed by fear. Because fear is never a trait of a true athlete. 

“A sense of sanity and normalcy is what the world needs today. If we don’t arrest the panic, our global community as well as our global economy, may just take a tailspin and come to a halt!”

You, what is your take on this nagging question? Let the author know your stand, email comments, and suggestions to [email protected]

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TAGS: COVID-19, Fernandez, Hayco, Tabal, Tokyo Olympics

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