Yes, Tokyo must go on

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2021 - 12:00am

There are less than a hundred days left before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, and some sectors and media are still lobbying for its cancellation. A major British media outlet posted a story this week about the move by some North American pundits to have Tokyo not push through. Others point out all the bad news: how Canada and Saudi Arabia have banned international flights, and Latin American nations are danger zones. Spain has announced a possible extended state of emergency. The United Kingdom and Germany announced a one-month lockdown, France for two weeks, followed by Italy. And so on.

Then on Wednesday came the cancellation of a part of the Olympic torch relay in Matsuyama city in western Japan due to a spike in the increase of COVID cases there. In past days, the relay has been rerouted away from public roads and through enclosed areas and parks. Then on Thursday, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, supposedly said that there is still a possibility that the Games could be scrapped if the pandemic situation worsens.

Some postulate that the organizing committee will eventually fold, and that they are just gradually letting people down. There will be no crowds or visitors, and many other compromises. But in this writer’s opinion, it is much worse to keep people hoping when there is actually nothing to hope for. That would be stringing people along. And the Japanese are known for being forthright. So this is unlikely. Their culture does not tolerate deception.

On the organizational side, sports leagues like the NBA have proven that bubble set-ups can work. For Tokyo, it’s simply a matter of replicating the best practices in multiple venues. They are spending an additional $800 million on 200 doctors and 300 nurses who will enforce health protocols at all venues on a daily basis. They are in uncharted waters, true. But they are also a known world leader in organization, health, technology, and security. Besides, let’s face it, some countries and athletes are merely crying sour grapes because they’ve decided not to participate.

The world has already surrendered so much to this modern plague, so much so that many people may never recover. The Olympics thus means so much more now. It is a symbol of mankind standing its ground and finding a way to be faster, higher, stronger in the face of the greatest adversity it has ever known. The Olympic torch, when lit, can rekindle the fire of hope and determination of a tired, fearful mankind that is sick of merely surviving just to do it again tomorrow. It is a reminder that we can fly, be free, overcome. It is needed more than some realize.

Besides, if you were in a position to decide, what would you do? Years after, what would you tell your grandchildren? Will it be a story of giving up, retreating, waiting for someone else to make a breakthrough? Or will it be a story of courage, innovation and integrity, a rallying point for billions? I think if we were in that position, it would be our responsibility – nay, our sacred, moral obligation – to lead.

There is too much at stake to do otherwise.


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