Postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now: Neil Humphreys
Staging the Games in July would go against the Olympic spirit of fair play
In a time of bewildering uncertainty, it's reassuring to know that one certainty exists. Tokyo 2020 must be postponed.
There should be no debate, no indecision, no rebuttals or "whataboutery". Every delay in making a definitive announcement sullies the event's reputation.
Good sportsmanship and a sense of fair play encapsulate the Games' philosophy. Tokyo 2020 will have neither.
Even if the Covid-19 pandemic miraculously ends before the opening ceremony on July 24 - and medical experts are in broad agreement that the virus will not be gone by then - the play cannot be fair. The field will not be level.
And that's the antithesis of good sportsmanship.
Once athletes line up behind the white line, only talent and training should separate them. Those who move the needle by injecting the needle are castigated because doping makes a mockery of a level playing field.
The best athletes, not the best chemists, are expected to triumph.
But the best athletes at Tokyo 2020 will almost certainly be undermined by those with the best containment practices or the least number of Covid-19 cases.
A kind of non-isolation doping is already at work, benefiting those who are free to follow the Olympic motto and become swifter, higher and stronger and penalising those currently juggling toilet rolls in their bathrooms.
A chasm separates, say, an Italian competitor from his Russian counterpart. Italy is in lockdown. Russia has escaped the worst of Covid-19, so far.
Russian, Serbian and Bulgarian athletes, for instance, can pretty much adhere to their strict training regimen. The Italians, Spanish, French, British, Chinese and North Americans obviously cannot.
Many of their cities are increasingly in lockdown. Ventilators, respirators and hospital beds are obviously taking precedence over their Olympic hopefuls' training schedules and dietary requirements.
The International Olympic Committee's executive board is tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding the health of its competitors and has hinted at a postponement.
Considering the Canadians and Australians have pulled out and Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has finally suggested that Tokyo 2020 could be moved, the IOC could hardly do anything else.
But while organisers procrastinate, waiting to see how Covid-19 develops, the IOC sidesteps the Games' fundamental principle of fair play because there isn't any. The virus has already wiped it out.
As World Athletics president, Sebastian Coe, pointed out, a level playing field is no longer possible. Self-isolating athletes risk injury in Tokyo through a lack of appropriate training or risk infecting others if they continue to train now.
How is that remotely fair?
Like the Olympic boycotts of 1980 and 1984, Tokyo 2020 will be another Games stuck with an unwanted asterisk. Certain athletes won because other athletes were in isolation or unfit, thanks to a global pandemic.
The best athletes want to beat the best, not the best available. An Olympic medal merits only plaudits, not caveats.
Joseph Schooling provided me with the greatest sporting moment of my life when he touched home first in the 100m butterfly final in Rio 2016, because the moment was pure. It was fair.
He beat the best.
Olympic athletes dedicate their lives to those moments of sporting purity. They do not deserve to have their achievements tarnished with an eternal asterisk.
And the IOC should recognise this, immediately and instinctively. The damage has already been done.
Instead, the IOC plays for time. A final decision on postponement will be made within four weeks, as the complexities of rescheduling such a global sporting event undoubtedly surpass those of Euro 2020.
Television deals and sponsorship agreements must be taken into consideration, which is very much in keeping with the modern sporting behemoth if not the traditional Olympic ideals.
But those four weeks will not close the gap between countries devastated by the virus and those largely spared. Four weeks is not sufficient to restore self-isolating athletes to peak condition.
There will be no fair play. So there should be no Tokyo 2020.
But let's imagine there was. Let's fantasise for a moment and assume that Covid-19 was largely contained and the Tokyo show went on.
And then, one athlete contracts the virus. Or a spectator tests positive. Or an elderly volunteer is infected and succumbs. Just one. It needs to be only one because it's one too many.
It's an avoidable death.
The reputational damage to the IOC, the Olympics and the Japanese government would be considerable, perhaps even irreparable.
Why take so many risks to host an inequitable competition?
The medal podium remains the sporting pinnacle. But it's not worth dying for.
What they say about rescheduling the Olympics
ORGANISERS PLANNING FOR VARIOUS SCENARIOS
"These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games."
- the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will make a decision in next four weeks
"If (hosting the Olympics in its complete form) becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games, given the Olympic principle of putting the health of athletes first."
- Japan PM Shinzo Abe
"The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Paralympic Committee (CPC) urgently call on the IOC, and the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organization to postpone the Games for one year and we offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring."
- the COC and CPC, which have announced a boycott of this summer's Games
"The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) says Australian athletes should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021."
- the AOC in a statement
"Whilst we all know that different parts of the world are at different stages of the virus, the unanimous view across all our areas is that an Olympic Games in July this year is neither feasible nor desirable."
- World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe, in a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach
IT WILL BE POSTPONED
"The moment the IOC indicates that it is thinking about other solutions, it has already decided to delay the Games."
- French Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia telling Radio RMC
NO, GAMES MUST GO ON
"We view as unacceptable any attempts to bring pressure on the organisations in charge of staging the Games and to force them to take rash decisions... The ROC urges all the representatives of the sports community to keep calm, to act systematically and constructively while preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games..."
- the Russian Olympic Committee