The Olympics in a Pandemic: A Choice Between Public Health and Public Delight

After so many concerns raised about the possibilities of hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government have gone ahead with plans, one year behind schedule.

The Olympics, originally meant to have been staged in 2020 was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which sent the world on its knees, posing a never-seen-before public health challenge and testing the economy of nations.

In less than 24 hours, China has shown they are strong again, as always, quickly rising to the top of the medals table with three gold medals and a bronze so far. But other than having a spectacular Olympic team and a strong start in Tokyo, China is everywhere else in the world.

For more than a year, strong doubts were cast over the possibility of holding the Olympics as the pandemic raged. Filtering out of Wuhan, China, the virus soon hit the rest of the world, killing millions of people and causing economies great losses. Nations are struggling to bounce back, as they face new variants almost after every success, and the public health nemesis has tested the resolve of countries of the world.

Japanese authorities were also denied the opportunity of having many travelers come into the country as they banned both traveling fans and spectators from stadiums. The pandemic has greatly tested the world, and has caused questions to be raised over the importance of some events in the scheme of things.

The Olympics in a Pandemic

Japan went ahead with organising the Olympics as the IOC also agreed to continue with the event.

Expected to make 80% from broadcast rights and 18% from sponsorships, the IOC may have chosen financial rewards with commitments to ensure everyone at the Olympics is safely guarded.

The IOC also relied heavily on Japan’s strict measures to limit the spread of the pandemic at the games with a state of emergency declared in Tokyo between July 8 and the 22nd of August. More than 159 countries have been banned from traveling to the country until after the Olympics comes to an end.

Despite fears from some quarters over the safety of going ahead with the Olympics, athletes have trooped in from different countries, hoping to be protected as they chase new record highs.

COVID-19 tests are expected to be conducted on international athletes and officials everyday and vaccination has been declared important. However authorities have said athletes must not be compulsorily vaccinated, although, they expect at least 80% of athletes to be vaccinated.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Gebreyessus backed the staging of the events and said it may help the world to chart a path to hosting public events in a pandemic. He also opined it could show what can be done to improve on COVID-19 safety protocols.

Organisers in Tokyo have not ruled out canceling the event with a sharp eye for increasing infections already set. On Saturday, 17 new COVID-19 cases were announced, taking the total to 123, all of whom have been accredited for the Olympics. The cost of the games also remains a huge factor to consider with more than $12bn already spent on the games.

Public Health, Fright and Delight

The excitement brought by the Olympics has been palpable with supporters looking forward to see their countries shine. China, Italy, Korea and Japan have all started strongly by winning gold medals less than a day into the events.

As good as the excitement has been, there are also evident fears in Tokyo. Other than some cities pulling out over the pandemic, four Czech athletes also pulled out after testing positive for the virus. Czech authorities however suspect the chartered flight taken by the Czech team.

Typically, the Olympics is an event that brings the world together and is unarguably the world’s biggest aggregation of sports, with a deep and rich history backing its relevance and importance.

Many athletes have waited for the event all their lives and may never have another opportunity to attend another of its kind. Fears over possible cancellation of the event are also in the air, mixed with the joy of the spectacle and the delight seen on the faces of participating athletes.

Bubbly, Beastly Banda And The Rest Of Africa

When Zambia Women’s captain, Barbra Banda scored a hat-trick in the 10-3 mauling by the Netherlands, she announced herself to the world, on a very grand stage.

Against China, she became the first woman in the history of the Olympics to score a hat-trick, netting three of her country’s four goals in the stalemate. The Zambians, who hold Africa’s sole football ticket at the games will next face powerhouse, Brazil, as they hope to cause a stir and pick a ticket to the next round.

Zambia’s Barbra Banda had copper bullets in her boots.

Nigeria’s Funke Oshonaike also lost on Saturday morning in her table tennis contest but had done enough to become the first African woman to attend 7 different Olympics. Esther Toko had also become just the second Nigerian to participate in the Rowing event at the Olympics.

American-born Uche Eke also became the first Nigerian to feature in the Gymnastics events at the games as other African athletes get in the fray.

Uche Eke leaping beyond historic boundaries

Taking Solidarity To The Games

Algerian Judoka, Fetih Nourine opted out of the Olympics after possibilities of a potential clash with an Israeli arose. The Algerian was scheduled to face a Sudanese Judoka on Monday, with a victory lining him him up for a clash against an Israeli.

Nourine said he made the move in solidarity with the Palestines whose struggle he says is greater than his.

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