The unthinkable is now getting closer to becoming a reality as pressure from all sides is mounting on the organisers of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics to cancel the summer event.
The IOC and the Japanese Government are for the moment steadfast in their refusal to backdown from their summer Games timetable, but they are facing mounting pressure from a number of different sides, with both public opinion and health experts heavily in favour of pulling the pin on the Games.
The head of Japanese doctors union has warned that the Games could spark new strain of coronavirus, with so many international visitors congregating in Tokyo at once.
While foreign spectators have already been banned, the medical expert says the influx of athletes from all over the world also presents a serious health threat.
“All of the different mutant strains of the virus which exist in different places will be concentrated and gathering here in Tokyo,” said Naoto Ueyama, head of the Japan Doctors Union.
“We cannot deny the possibility of even a new strain of the virus potentially emerging after the Olympics.
“If such a situation were to arise, it could even mean a Tokyo Olympic strain of the virus being named in this way, which would be a huge tragedy and something which would be the target of criticism even for 100 years.”
Public opinion has swung away from the government with the vast majority of Japanese calling for the Games to be cancelled. Now an official partner of the Tokyo Olympics, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, has published an open letter calling for the Games be cancelled and criticising IOC vice-president John Coates for claiming the Olympics could be held even under a state of emergency.
“We ask Prime Minister (Yoshihide) Suga to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide on the cancellation of the event this summer,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
Even insurance companies are in support of the Games cancelling, with 56 per cent of insurers and reinsurers behind such a move.
If the IOC was forced to cancel it would likely result in the largest-ever event cancelation claim ever made, according to US-based insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
In such an event the insurance claim would encompass up to US$3 billion in estimated losses, Reinsurance News reported.
It is believed that the IOC has an event cancellation policy in place worth around US$800 million. The local organising committee in Tokyo has its own policy which is estimated at around US$650 million.
Whatever decision is ultimately made, it will surely give the Queensland Government food for thought as front runner to host the Games in 2032 in Brisbane. That date may seem long enough away for the pandemic not to affect it, but that’s assuming the world will be pandemic free for the foreseeable future – and that’s a bet that’s looking less sure by the day.