Flame arrival faces calls for Tokyo Olympics be delayed

A Japan’s flag is raised next to the Olympic flag during the Olympic flame handover ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in Athens on March 19. Aris Messinis/Pool via AP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee have made it official: The Tokyo Olympic games won’t be held as planned this summer.

The international competition was scheduled to begin July 24 and last until Aug. 9, but the global COVID-19 pandemic and necessary travel restrictions made that unsafe, unfeasible and unfair. The IOC dithered on the issue for too long, but ultimately did the right thing.

Abe says he’d like to reschedule the games for 2021 as proof of human victory over the coronavirus pandemic. God willing, we’ll be watching.

We won’t belabor the reasons for delaying the games. The fact that it wouldn’t have been a fair fight was reason enough. If it weren’t for the coronavirus, athletes would be competing now for places on their national teams and then ramping up their skills to peak in Tokyo. But all of that has been irreparably interrupted such that no one could prepare for the games safely or fairly.

This isn’t the first time that world events have put off a planned Olympic games, although disease has never been the cause. The 1940 games, also scheduled for Japan, were cancelled because of World War II. The 1916 games, scheduled for Berlin, and the planned 1944 London games also were cancelled by world war.

We hope the Japan games don’t have to be scrapped altogether. We genuinely believe in the founding tenets of the Olympic movement — that the quadrennial competition can be a means of developing international brotherhood and peace. Japan has invested billions in preparations, the athletes deserve the chance to compete and, frankly, the world could use a little diversion.

The international necessity of social distancing would be a lot easier, if we had some live sports to watch, but bringing in the top athletes of the world and having them compete in close proximity is obviously out of the question.

For now, we’ll just have to be satisfied with watching archival video of past competitions and look forward to a time when the Tokyo games can be held safely and fairly.


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