A man wearing a protective mask stands in front of Olympic rings in Tokyo
A man wearing a protective mask stands in front of Olympic rings in Tokyo Image Credit: Bloomberg

It is high time the International Olympic Committee saw sense and cancelled this summer’s Tokyo 2020 Games until the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

As the body count rises around the globe and Olympic members including Italy, Spain and host nation Japan have called on the IOC to halt plans to begin the Games as scheduled on July 24, the obstinate behaviour of IOC chief Thomas Bach is looking more and more like a child with his fingers in his ears, stamping his feet with his eyes closed, refusing to see the reality and wanting it all to just magically go away.

The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed almost 11,000 lives and infected more than 275,000 people across the planet. Almost every nation has halted all sporting events indefinitely and implemented extreme social measures to prevent the spread of the disease, yet Bach and his cohorts are bullishly ploughing ahead as if there is nothing to be alarmed about.

Every four years, the Olympics sees athletes gather from all corners of the world in a celebration of greatness and competition of sporting excellence.

If anything, that alone should have put the Games front and centre back in mid-February. Given its global reach — more than 11,000 athletes, about the same in support staff and hundreds of thousands of fans were expected to descend on Tokyo — it should have been top of the list in any discussion about putting sporting events on hold.

Yet, organisers of the world’s biggest multi-sports event have repeatedly said the Games would start as scheduled, even as coronavirus brought sporting events around the globe to a standstill.

“The cancellation is not on the agenda. We are committed to the success of these Games,” Bach said on Thursday.

‘Games’. Not life and death — games. Games can take place any time — just not right now when the world has much bigger things to get in order.

Bach went on to say it is too early to talk about postponement. Too early? You are at least four weeks too late, Thomas. If the United States denier-in-chief Donald Trump thinks postponement must be considered before you have, you must be doing something very, very wrong.

Even the logistics must take a back seat. If the much-maligned and corruption-riddled governing bodies of football — Uefa and Fifa — can rattle out a deal to shift competitions including the European Championships and Copa America until the summer of 2021, surely the IOC can thrash out a plan in this time of exceptional crisis.

Bach’s stubborn approach is almost offensive to the plight of so many who have lost loved ones. He has to put the Olympics on hold before their centuries-old reputation of equality, excellence and humanity are tarnished forever. Even now, it looks impossible to see these Games — if and when — going ahead without a real bad taste lingering around them for years to come.