By Jules Boykoff
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers insist that the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games will go on. Even with widespread cancellations in European soccer, Formula One auto racing, and professional and collegiate basketball in the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan vowed, “We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned.”
But the Olympic spectacle is a powerful drug. Last week, despite the coronavirus mayhem, the Olympic torch relay commenced in Greece, where an actor dressed as a pagan priestess ignited the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia. Within hours, however, the torch relaywas canceled over public-health concerns.
And yet, Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers contend the torch relay will proceed on schedule, starting on March 26 in Fukushima, the prefecture decimated by the triple-whammy earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011. This decision has not only raised eyebrows in light of the pandemic but also because Greenpeace has found radiation hot spots along the torch relay route.
While participants in the Olympic torch relay may be putting themselves in harm’s way, personnel at the I.O.C.’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, will not. This week, most of them began teleworking. According to the I.O.C., this measure aims “to protect the health of its staff and their families” from the coronavirus. Workers with the Tokyo torch relay are not being accorded the same precautions.