An Olympic postponement
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - March 28, 2020 - 12:00am

“Today, none of us are strangers. Today, we are one family, stepping into the darkness together.”

– Danny Glover as US Pres. Thomas, “2012”

In the film “2012,” increased effects of the sun caused the earth’s core to get hotter, causing the earth’s tectonic plates to shift. The planet tilted on its axis, volcanoes erupted, the tides roared inland, and everything mankind knew ceased to exist. There was virtually no escape.

That’s pretty much how we all feel, as our most basic movements have to be restricted. Almost all of our sources of food, entertainment and routine have been taken away. There are zero sports activities, save for online games and challenges posted on social media. And now, to top it all off, the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed.

It is a painful, important, responsible decision. Hosting the Olympic Games is a singular challenge requiring singular focus. Anything could go wrong, and as the 1996 Atlanta edition proved, anything will. Security, transportation, food, hospitality are all critical. Any other concerns take a back seat for 16 days, so much so that entire cities are locked down. Only official vehicles, VIP  transport, athletes and technical personnel are allowed in and out. Come to think of it, pretty much like now.

But nobody, not even a society as advanced as Japan, has the hubris to assume that it can contain COVID-19. Too many people, too many places, too many interactions. Too much risk. If even single-sport events like FIBA and FIFA tournaments have been pushed back, then surely, the Olympics would be. In the past, the outbreak of war has caused the cancellation of three modern Olympics, the last in 1944. Since then, there have only been boycotts in 1980 and 1984, as political tensions between the US and USSR rose. Higher powers forewent participation in the Games, and many athletes lost the chance at greatness.

Australia and Canada had already both signified that they would not participate in Tokyo should the Games push through this year. Australia has had a long-standing record of being strict in controlling the risk of infectious diseases, while Canada has a great free health care system, perhaps one of the best in the world. It only takes one infected person to spread contagion in a vast area. Then it progresses geometrically. The US, Italy and China are perfect examples, unfortunately.

The Japanese’s best course of action is to hold the Olympics in the summer of 2021. They cannot push the Olympics back to 2022, because it will coincide with both the Winter Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. Each will be a major distraction for the other. Plus, Japan has to push through with the staging, to recover at least some of the tens of billions of dollars it has spent on infrastructure, communications and so on. 2021 would be ideal, on the assumption that nations can stop the spread of the virus within the next six months or so. That seems to be a consensus except for the US, where a sustained campaign of up to 18 months is predicted.

In the meantime, I suggest that local governments in afflicted areas worldwide conscript their coliseums and school gymnasiums as field hospitals or temporary housing. Many are displaced, cannot afford hospitals or are simply unable to move around. These facilities have bathrooms, in most cases air-conditioning, and places where people can lie down. Moreover, they are self-contained and easy to secure. Many have wide screens where movies or the news could be shown. It will help a lot of people, and the places can be disinfected inexpensively afterwards.

I pray that the lasting effect this crisis will leave is that we become more mindful, careful, considerate and loving towards one another; and that in the end, the separation builds stronger bridges between us.

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