EDITORIAL: As Games begin, we should remember lives being risked for Olympic money, glory

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
In this July 15, 2021, file photo, people walk by the Olympic rings installed by the Nippon Bashi bridge in Tokyo. The Tokyo Summer Games will likely go on, despite a state of emergency existing in Japan because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
  • Summer Olympic events in Tokyo start Wednesday with the official opening ceremonies on Friday.
  • The Games will go on despite a state of emergency existing in Japan.
  • Less than 25% of the Japanese population has had COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The number of COVID-19 cases in Japan is surging at the moment.

The International Olympic Committee has made its decision.

The Japanese government has acquiesced to the IOC’s wishes.

Now we can only hope that millions of Japanese citizens and thousands of Olympic athletes won’t pay a steep price for that choice.

Barring an unlikely last-minute change of heart, the Tokyo Summer Games will go on. The events start Wednesday and the official opening ceremonies are Friday.

They’ll go on despite the advice from medical experts in Japan that they shouldn’t be held in a nation enduring a COVID-19 surge.

They’ll go on despite a vaccination rate of less than 25% among the nation’s population of 126 million.

They’ll go on despite polls that show the majority of Japanese citizens don’t want them to happen.

They’ll go despite a state of emergency in Japan that will largely prevent spectators at the events or foreign visitors in the nation.

Japanese PM Suga says world should see safe Olympics staged

Money is behind the decision: So, why are the Games still being held against such a frightening backdrop?

One word — money.

According to the Associated Press, staging the Games will secure more than $3 billion in revenue from broadcasters worldwide. It helps fund the Switzerland-based IOC, which shares hundreds of millions of dollars among the 206 national teams and also with governing bodies of Olympic sports.

IOC says it’s about Olympic dreams: The IOC, of course, counters that the Games are still going on because thousands of athletes have worked desperately hard to earn their opportunities at Olympic gold — opportunities that only come around once every four years.

Canceling the Tokyo Games — which have already been pushed back a year — would destroy the dreams of thousands of athletes. That would include a pair of York County medal hopefuls — swimmer Hali Flickinger and wrestler John Stefanowicz.

Canceling the Olympics was never an option, IOC president Thomas Bach said, because “the IOC never abandons the athletes.”

There is validity to that argument. No one wants to see Olympic dreams dashed.

Health and safety should take precedence: At some point, however, the health and safety of a nation’s citizens should take precedence, not to mention the health and safety of Olympic athletes, coaches and staff.

This would seem to be such a case.

Still, the decision has been made. The Games will almost certainly go on. And it’s not only the Olympic Games that will be held in Tokyo. The Paralympic Games are set to follow from Aug. 24 through Sept. 5.

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Protocols will hopefully prevent a potential tragedy: Now we can only hope the protocols put in place by the IOC and the Japanese government will prevent a widespread COVID tragedy within the nation, including the Olympic village.

The news this week has not been especially encouraging. Tokyo Olympic organizers said 71 people have already tested positive. The total includes 31 people among the tens of thousands of international visitors expected in Japan to compete or work at the Games.

Several athletes have already seen their Olympic hopes ruined by positive COVID-19 tests.

Very real risks are being taken: So, as we watch the Games unfold during the next few weeks from the safety of our living rooms here in York County, we should keep in mind the very real risks that being taken halfway around the world in Japan.

Hopefully, when late September rolls around, we won’t be mourning the hospitalizations and deaths of thousands of COVID-19 victims – hospitalizations and deaths that could’ve been prevented.

All for the sake of Olympic cash and Olympic glory.