We are just three days away from the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics … hopefully.
With the increase of COVID-19 cases, head of the organizing committee Toshiro Muto could not guarantee the Olympics would go on as they continue to monitor the concerning spread of the virus
“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” Muto said, per the Daily Mail. “We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
After Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases connected to the games was at 71. There were 13 new cases on Monday alone, including U.S. gymnastics alternate Kara Eaker. Basketball stars Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine have also entered COVID protocols; Beal has withdrawn from the event, but LaVine is expected to join the team at the end of the week.
The virus has not just made its way through the Olympics, but has also stretched to the citizens of Japan. On Tuesday, the city of Tokyo reported more than 1,300 cases, which is 550 more than the week prior.
The Olympics has seen numerous sponsors pull out of the event due to the rising number of cases. Toyota said on Monday that it will not air any Olympic-themed TV ads during the event. They will also not send any representatives to the Opening Ceremony. Panasonic, Fujitsu, and NEC Group have followed Toyota’s lead and will not send any representatives, either.
Despite all the turmoil in Tokyo, president of the International Olympics Committee Thomas Bach, said he believes that canceling the games is “not an option.”
“Over the past 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts every day. We deliberated and discussed. There were sleepless nights,” Bach said. “This also weighed on us, it weighed on me. But in order to arrive at this day today we had to give confidence, had to show a way out of this crisis.”
The Olympic committee has taken numerous precautions to keep the event going while limiting the potential spread of the virus, including severely limiting the number of fans.
However, Kenji Shibuya, the former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, does not believe that the Olympic “bubble” will work as well as the committee thinks.
“It’s obvious that the bubble system is kind of broken,” Shibuya said. “My biggest concern is, of course, there will be a cluster of infections in the (athletes’) village or some of the accommodation and interaction with local people.”