Sports fans will be glued to their TV screens for the next two weeks as the 2020 Summer Olympics – delayed by a year due to the pandemic – take place in Tokyo and other locations in Japan . No one will watch more closely than those in Vancouver, which set out to host the 2030 Winter Games.
Hosting the 2020 Games in Tokyo seemed like a good idea in 2013, when the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to the Japanese city, which previously hosted the Summer Games in 1964. Other Japanese cities hosted the Games Olympic Winter Games in 1972 and 1998.
This week, as athletes and delegations gathered and COVID-19 infections were detected among them, the project looked less attractive. The pandemic is raging in Tokyo, where the number of hospitalizations has risen rapidly in recent days, threatening heavy pressure on hospitals. Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Japanese people want games to go away.
The games will not go away. The IOC made its concession to common sense last year when they delayed the games by a year and they’re not about to back down now just because their Japanese hosts have COVID-19 and don’t want to. more than travelers spread the disease among them.
Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Japanese people want games to go away.
Brisbane, Australia is likely to be selected this week as the site for the 2032 Summer Games. Several other cities have considered bidding but have given up after further research, leaving Brisbane as the only potential host. This year’s experience in Tokyo could further reduce the crowd of candidates inviting future Olympics.
The IOC has already lined up Beijing, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles to host the Winter and Summer Games in the 2020s. Vancouver is applying for the 2030 Winter Games, competing with bids from Sapporo, Barcelona and Salt Lake City.
Canadians are well aware of the reasoning behind cities bidding for the games – prestige, boost in tourism, legacy of sports facilities, encouragement of local athletes. They also know that the financial costs are always much higher than the expectations of the organizers, that the economic boom is short-lived and that the fabulous new facilities collapse quickly. This was the experience of Montreal in 1976, Calgary in 1988 and Vancouver in 2010.
They also know that the IOC is a cranky and demanding guest. Its breezy rejection this week of Japanese health concerns may serve as a reminder to other past and potential host cities that once you bring this organization to your city, it will make the rules. Your city is no longer yours.
Games have become a heavy and troublesome presence that cannot be integrated into a city without seriously disrupting the people who live there and without a huge cost to the city and its national government.
Cities and countries have their own reasons for satisfying the IOC and its demands. Canadians need not fear the 2030 Games will not find a home. If Vancouver abandons the race, Sapporo, Barcelona and Salt Lake City will step in.
The Olympics can be a wonderful thing to watch – from a safe distance. Olympic ideals glorify human achievement and offer a celebration of peaceful relations among the nations of the world. Games have, however, become a cumbersome and impractical presence that cannot be installed in a city without seriously disrupting the people who live there and without a huge cost to the city and its national government.
Canadians should wish Tokyo a successful Olympic Games with the least possible damage to their city and their health. And they should wish Sapporo, Barcelona and Salt Lake City good luck with their offers for the 2030 games.