Sports

If fans and athletes aren’t comfortable, what are these Olympics for? Money

Sixty percent of Japanese citizens surveyed do not want the 2020 Olympics to take place.
Photo: Getty Images

Not that the question needs answering. We all know. They haven’t been about the athletes for long before we were born. And now it couldn’t be clearer that they’re not for fans either.

Tennis champion Naomi Osaka expressed the conflict that a lot of athletes must be feeling about travel to Japan to compete. As Osaks said, on the one hand the event is still the pinnacle for some. On the other, no athlete wants to be responsible for making things worse in Japan than they already are, and they’re pretty bad! Hell, the country wasn’t able to even do the torch relay without COVID issues, and that’s way down the scale from thousands of athletes, coaches, and support staff showing up. Japan is in the midst of yet another state of emergency, which it will be under until the end of the month. Is there anyone who thinks that six weeks or so is enough time to go from a state of emergency to a status that this kind of massive event can be held safely?

Osaka is in a different position than a lot of athletes, of course. Professional tennis players, as well as basketball players and a couple other groups, have premier events sprinkled throughout the calendar every year. Losing out on the Olympics would suck, but there’s still a U.S. Open a month later and then all the grand slams the following year. There’s a lot of triumphs and glory to be had for the ATP and WTA without The Games.

But if you’re a swimmer or track athlete or a host of other sports, this is it. Everything is pointed to these two weeks. It’s a lot harder to ask them to give this up, because they don’t know if they’ll have this chance again. Still, all of them are carrying this conflict in some ways, you’d think.

Which isn’t one they should be carrying. We can’t expect the athletes themselves to stage some sort of walkout or protest and not show up. It’s not their place.

Someone above them has to do that. It came out yesterday that 60 percent of the Japanese population don’t want The Games to happen. Which is easy to see when they’re so far from the end of this pandemic. There are bigger fish to fry here. And seeing as how Japanese fans are the only ones who would be allowed to attend anything, and most of them don’t want them to happen at all, it makes one wonder what’s the point?

The point of course is to line the IOC’s pockets, and so NBC can recoup all the cash they laid out through advertising buys. And whoever else the stakeholders are, which most certainly aren’t the athletes themselves.

The IOC claims it will facilitate vaccinating all competitors so that they’re safe to bring into the country, but that’s going to look weird when only 2 percent of the Japanese population are vaccinated at the moment and the country is still dealing with outbreaks. What exactly is more important?

What we’ve always known about The Games is losing more of its fig leaf. The fans can’t go, and the ones that can don’t want to. The athletes aren’t feeling great about it, and probably could live with the disappointment of a cancellation knowing that it was the safer path. Which only leaves the execs, who certainly won’t ever be at risk.

Doesn’t really live up to the Olympic spirit, does it?

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