The 2020 Olympics: Will the coronavirus cancel the games?

By Maddie Curnow

Fear of the corona virus seems to be spreading just as quickly as the disease itself. It all started on December 31, 2019, when several cases were reported to the World Health Organization. The cases all originated in Wuhan, but they were simply passed off due to the pneumonia-like symptoms observed. However, the suspected pneumonia was truly the coronavirus, and the few cases quickly erupted into thousands. 

In addition to the lives at stake, a long lived tradition is also threatened by the COVID-19 epidemic: the Olympic Games. With the first series of the modern games occuring in 1896 in Athens, Greece, the Olympics have been a symbol of integration. They bring together athletes of all ethnicities an nationalities where they are judged simply on their athletic ability in the spirit of unity. 

However, the miracle that allows countries of differing beliefs and historic tensions to compete peacefully will not be able to conquer the coronavirus. Given the game’s location in Tokyo, talks of cancelling the games are in the air. The proximity to the epicenter of the disease would put athletes and spectators from all areas at risk, ultimately spreading the coronavirus to their home countries when they return. Not to mention, Tokyo’s urban sprawl heightens the ability for the disease to infect large numbers with the city’s public, and not to mention crowded, transportation systems. 

Countries want to make sure that all is being done to prevent a catalyst for the virus, the Olympics being a potential candidate for the role. While the prioritization of safety is understood, the proposal of cancelling the olympics serves as a hard blow for athletes who, according to Forbes, can spend anywhere from four to eight years prior to the games training. Young hopefuls who have dreamed of representing their country may not be able to do so. 

If the Olympic Games are cancelled, this will be the first time since World War II. As the likelihood draws closer and the severity of the coronavirus grows, it is important to know what you can do personally to keep yourself safe. 

  1. Always wash your hands. This seems like a given, but it’s extremely important because of the threat of the disease and how easily it carries.
  2. Try not to touch your face. Again, while this is typically expected to combat the generic cold, it is even more important now. 
  3. If someone is coughing, distance yourself. 

For more tips to protect yourself, the World Health Organization has compiled several tips to best protect yourself. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public 

For now we can cross our fingers that the games will occur. Should they not, the wave of disappointment that will most likely cascade over those who have been planning to either compete or attend must be taken with a grain of salt. The handling of the games will have everyone’s health at best interest and that must be respected.

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