30th March to 5th April
One of the biggest announcements made earlier this week by the organisers of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, was the postponement of the prestigious event until summer 2021. It was a controversial decision if you consider that the Olympic Games were only meant to start on the 24th July, almost three months from now. The decision was announced by Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and later fully supported by the International Olympic Committee in a separate press conference. Clearly the increase of COVID-19 cases around the world was the major contributing factor and many health professionals would have been consulted beforehand in assessing the dangers to athletes and spectators alike. The postponement may have been further influenced by the decision of Canada and Australia to withdraw their teams from Tokyo 2020. Some high profile athletes had also voiced their concerns and rumours circled that Great Britain may have been next to announce their withdrawal. The postponement to 2021 is also not set in stone either, as it will most certainly have an impact on other summer events scheduled for next year.
All sports have been cancelled for April and organisers are now beginning to cancel or postpone events scheduled for the first week of May and beyond. It is an incredible task to postpone an event and to fit that into a later date within a narrow season. If smaller sports find it difficult, just imagine how Japan will manage with something as important and big as the Olympic Games. It is of course possible, but at the same time we should not be surprised that the entire event be called off eventually. This will be major loss for Tokyo and Japan. We feel perhaps, if teams had not withdrawn so soon, then Japan would not have made the announcement last week either. Apart from the dangers of contracting the virus, the restrictions placed by governments around the world on the movements of their citizens mean that training for athletes would also be greatly affected. Perhaps organisers feel their teams would be underprepared even if most restrictions were lifted by May. We certainly hope that a breakthrough will be established very shortly as COVID-19 will probably not be eradicated altogether either.
The only sports event we could still keep track of this week unfortunately had to be postponed by FIDE, the international governing body for chess. Russia made an announcement earlier in the week that most air traffic with other nations was to be suspended until further notice, leaving FIDE with no choice but to stop all proceedings to ensure the safe passage of participants and spectators out of the country. The significance of Candidates 2020 is the winner gets to challenge Magnus Carlsen as the World Champion. On Wednesday, France's Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi to tie for the lead, a full point ahead of the next challengers. Other news, especially for UK residents and tennis fans, is that the All England Club are planning to make a decision sometime in the coming week on whether Wimbledon will go ahead. So far they have ruled out playing matches behind closed doors. This could be a viable option and it should really be down to the players to decide whether they want to attend.
We feel bold decisions need to be made by governing bodies to adapt their events as as blanket ban on sport cannot really go on beyond June. The industry will suffer greatly with a knock-on effect on many other business areas. Saving lives is more important than anything else and we understand what a difficult decision some organisations face. Teams are working around the clock conducting tests on the virus and we hope the findings will present us all with a clearer picture of the next few weeks and months.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay positive.