THE year 2020 was an Olympic year. The games never held. No thanks to the controversial COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world, forcing a postponement of the world’s most glamorous sporting spectacle.
The COVID-19 pandemic that forced the postponement of the games started out from Wuhan Province in China, as a local disease.
It killed people in droves and in time moved from one country to another decimating people, until the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified it as a pandemic.
Since then, it has become an uncontrollable killing monster, threatening the existence of mankind.
The 2020 Olympic Games, which were to be hosted by Japan, were postponed to this year, 2021. However, even the prospects of staging the events in the new dates expected to run from July 23 to Aug. 8, now appears some fleeting illusion.
Virtually all the facilities needed to host events have all been provided at grave costs by the Japanese hosts. They seek to use the games to showcase the latest technology-driven games, never seen before.
With coronavirus still persisting and even assuming a more daring dimension, especially with a new wave, there seem some growing concerns about staging games even this year.
Under the current tense situation, a few notable Japanese, in a recent Kyodo News survey claimed that around 80 per cent of Japanese people want this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to be cancelled or postponed.
Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui has even gone ahead to suggest that the games be postponed to 2024 because of the coronavirus crisis.
Matsui, who also leads the Japan Innovation Party, told The Mainichi Newspaper that organisers and the IOC should aim for 2024.
According to him, the following two Olympics after Tokyo 2020 – Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 – should be pushed back by four years in a coronavirus-enforced reshuffle.
“The whole world is facing unprecedented hard times,” Matsui claimed in a publication carried by Insidethegames.
But a determined International Olympic Committee (IOC) seems determined to explore every possible option to get ahead with the 2020 Japan Olympic Games now to be staged from July 23 to Aug. 8.
The body’s president, Thomas Bach vowed in a recent interview that there is “no reason whatsoever”, to think Tokyo 2020 will not be staged on the new dates.
He made the comments in an interview with Kyodo News as speculation surrounding the staging of the Olympics and Paralympics this year appear to be gaining unexpected momentum.
“We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on July 23, in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo,” Bach insisted.
“This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to making these games safe and successful.”
It has been gathered that the IOC is currently exploring a means of collaborating with the WHO to administer vaccines to athletes that would attend the games.
But by far, one of the problems likely to adversely affect attendance to the games are that many countries, particularly in Africa, have yet to re-open sporting activities after the lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic.
Added to this is the fact that there is only five months left for virtually all sports to engage in final qualifications for the games. Even the International federations have yet to announce final timetables for concluding qualifications.
In Nigeria, only soccer seems to have been granted consideration to restart.
This will certainly widen the popularity prospects of the sport, to the detriment of the others yet to restart. These sports are referred to locally as the lesser known sports that have all along, have been struggling for survival against soccer, `the king of sports’.
What are the prospects of attending regional, institutional and world games when the country has yet to restart games across the country?
Only recently, Nigeria’s Sports Ministry, announced a postponement of a planned National Sports Festival billed to have been hosted by Edo State for a second time. A second postponement was announced and this time indefinitely, there by denying the youths another opportunity to grow in their sport.
However, the Sports Minister’s Special Adviser on Media, John Joshua Akanji hinted in an interview that the chances of a re-start of all sports now appear bright.
“Since permission was granted by the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare for One Service One Medal (OSOM) Games, featuring the Armed and the Paramilitary Forces recently held in Abuja, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 24, this means that re-opening of other sports may be announced soon.
Akanji adds: “I have no doubts that OSOM Games will now herald a re-start of other games in the country, given that it suffered several postponements occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic in the recent past”.
The pandemic forced an initial postponement of the National Sports Festival, planned to hold in Benin, the Edo capital, which was again late last year postponed indefinitely.
The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) President, Habu Gumel expressed concerns, particularly because some sports have yet to conclude their pre-Olympic Games’ qualifiers.
He had welcomed the initial postponed date for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics saying that the change in dates might spur on the athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The NOC 1st Vice-President, Solomon Ogba, was quoted as saying that those athletes who struggled with preparation could now have a second chance.
“The new Olympic date can be an advantage to us because it will give us more time to prepare.
“The Olympics are professional events for athletes. Those who didn’t prepare well this year might likely prepare better this year; this is the truth because athletes can peak this time around.
“The postponement has not ruined NOC’s plans for Tokyo this year; what has happened is just for us to readjust our training schedule,” he said.
“On a brighter side, we all can take advantage of the extended period to adequately prepare our contingent for a glorious outing at the Tokyo Olympic Games.”
“Whatever be the case, Games are not expected to be the same again after the pandemic,” noted NOC Secretary-General, Banji Oladapo.
“Even though the pandemic has taken a toll on games, but we will still remain loyal to the ideals of the Olympic Movement as an ultimate body to continue to promote world peace through sports.”
Some countries, particularly in Africa may drop off from the games over a lack of support from their political leadership. These are countries that blame a lack of resources to stay away from the games.
But the staging of the games have been put beyond question with nine months to the event, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga and IOC President met on Jan. 18 and resolved to go ahead.
Both leaders announced their determination to stage safe and secure Olympic Games next year.
Prime Minister Suga assured: “Our determination is to realise successful and secure Tokyo Games next summer as proof that humanity has defeated the virus.”
President Bach added: “we share the great commitment of the Prime Minister that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will happen. We are determined that safe Olympic Games will be a symbol of solidarity and unity.
“We have a toolbox of measures against the coronavirus, and together with our Japanese friends and partners we will make sure that these games will be a light at the end of the dark tunnel in which we find ourselves.’’