Even as several national Governments were groping around in the dark to figure out what the impact of the SARS-CoV 2 epidemic would be, some parts of the sports world were quick to react. European football quickly shut down games once a few players were infected with the virus and then proceeded to even postpone its flagship European Championships scheduled for this summer. The National Basketball Association was the first major American professional sports championship to shut down after one player was diagnosed with COVID-19. And then everything began to fall like a house of cards. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which was tone-deaf to fans, imploring it to cancel the Indian Premier League (IPL), postponed the tournament till mid-April. It now looks as if it will not go ahead at all. Australia and New Zealand’s One-Day international sides played a match without an audience but quickly cancelled the series. The English summer cricket season, too, might be put on hold.
In the midst of all this, as sports lovers know, this is an Olympic year with the summer games scheduled to go ahead in Japan’s capital Tokyo. While Japan has been extremely proactive in preparing for the games, both the local organising committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been grappling with what to do — to cancel or postpone the games. The IOC’s steadfast stand of going ahead with the games until today is being increasingly seen as an act of arrogance and stubbornness. Or is it that like the IPL, it is worried about the sponsors and broadcaster commitments? Of course, common sense should come into play even if the contracts are tightly worded because no commercial contract in any sector has a pandemic clause built into it unless, of course, it is the insurance industry. Qualifying tournaments have not been able to take place due to border closures, athletes cannot train due to social distancing. While Japan has been saved by the worst of the virus so far, bringing 50,000 athletes, officials, journalists, broadcasters, technicians and politicians from across the world to one spot would be a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe we will be able to check the Wuhan contagion by then but we cannot assume that. Nor should the IOC. If it continues to dig its heels, it will be hosting a game that will be attended by none. This way, it will destroy every last shred of its credibility. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).