2020 OLYMPICS: Can London, host of the 2012 Games, be ready if the Coronavirus prevents holding them
SAN FRANCISCO (#1254) — One hears that moving the 2020 Games from Tokyo to London is being seriously considered at highest levels within the IOC given the continuing concerns over the coronavirus, or COVID-19 as the World Health Organization has now designated it. Overnight a prominent Japanese virologist has said that the Olympics could not be held in Tokyo in the current coronavirus climate.
Also overnight, a Reuters wire story, and many other news outlets in London, are reporting that a leading London Mayoral candidate claimed that London can be ready to host the 2020 Olympics if they have to be moved from Tokyo.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympic organizers reiterated their statement of last Thursday (13 February) that the coronavirus will not stop the 2020 Games from being held in Tokyo.
We are also reading that there is no real consideration being given to returning the Games to Rio, where they were held in 2016, or to Paris or Los Angeles where they are scheduled to be held in 2024 and 2028 respectively. But back to London?
That is a huge ask given the obviously complex and enormous logistics involved in such a move, not to mention the short time frame. Then there's the daunting financial implications to the IOC, the Tokyo Olympic organizers, London, the broadcasters, insurance companies, etc.
Moreover, who (no pun intended) is to say that London will be any safer than Tokyo in five months time? And if you were a resident of the UK would you want the 11,091 athletes expected (source: Wikipedia) from around the world descending on your country under the current coronavirus circumstances?
Speaking specifically of sailing, it's one thing to move the athletic (track and field) events from one stadium to virtually identical conditions in another stadium halfway around the world, or the swimming events from the Olympic pool in Tokyo to the pool used in London 2012. However, what about the sailors who have trained in, and for the conditions expected on, the waters in Enoshima where the Olympic Sailing Regatta is scheduled to take place?
Well, you will say, sailors have to be prepared for anything. It happens all the time — sailors train for the expected conditions at a given venue only to encounter something completely different. How many times have you heard from the locals, "We never have weather like this." Or, "You should have been here last year."
If the virus does prevent the Games from being held in Tokyo, and the IOC want to carry on with them in 2020, wouldn't it make more sense to divvy the individual Olympic events up to cities that could be prepared to host one or two of them, but not all 339 events in 33 sports in one place?
Not hard to imagine Weymouth (GBR, where the 2012 sailing was held) being ready and able to host Sailing again, or Long Beach, CA (USA) where the 1984 Olympic Yachting Regatta (as it was then called) was held, and is slated to be held again in 2028.
Regardless, it's only fair to the athletes of all sports that the Games Somehow Must Go On. After training for four or likely many more years, and winning selection to represent their country, they deserve to have their day, or week, in the Olympic sun. God forbid we have another 1980 when the then USA President Jimmy Carter forced the USOC — with some 60 other countries following suit — to boycott the Moscow Olympics over the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott had little effect on the Soviet war effort, dashed the Olympic hopes and dreams of many sailors and other athletes who never got a second chance, and resulted in the tit-for-tat boycott by the Soviets and their Satellites of the 1984 LA Olympics.
Not to mention that another country has been mired in a war in Afghanistan since 2001 — almost 20 years, and the longest war in that country's history.
By the way, the accompanying photo is Lijia Xu (CHN), gold medalist in the Laser Radial class at the 2012 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Weymouth. "Golden Lily" as she is also known, is the first Asian (male or female) to win a gold medal in an Olympic dinghy. Lily will be my special guest, live via Skype from the UK, on Friday's (21 Feb) TFE LIVE, our twice-weekly webcast (Tuesdays and Fridays) at 1300 Pacific / 2100 UTC. Watch it live on our Sailing Illustrated Facebook page or a replay there afterwards. Replays are also available on our "Sailing Illustrated TV" YouTube channel.
Photo: onEdition 2012 via Marine Scene Asia.