“We have this suspicion that many top sport leaders are likely to find themselves debating the philosophical and financial details of sport instead of going straight to solving a problem. Coronavirus arrived with the power of a tsunami in changing the lives of those who are affected. Its anomalous and malignant wave does not destroy instantly but continues over time as Chernobyl did.”
by Gianni Merlo, AIPS President
LAUSANNE, March 17, 2020 – “To debate the gender of angels” is an italian expression that defines high level and in depth discussions on marginal or irrelevant issues, ignoring much more serious issues of the moment.
The saying is thought to date back to the Byzantine period, when city theologians used to debate the sex (male or female) of angels among themselves – even when the troops of Muhammad II were about to storm Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), in 1453, ending the Roman Empire of the East.
We have this suspicion that many top sport leaders are likely to find themselves debating the philosophical and financial details of sport instead of going straight to solving a problem. Coronavirus arrived with the power of a tsunami in changing the lives of those who are affected. Its anomalous and malignant wave does not destroy instantly but continues over time as Chernobyl did.
The IOC President Thomas Bach has scheduled a conference call with the other sports leaders to find solutions. Herein lies the problem. They will discuss, as it often happens, the gender of angels, they will make assumptions and everyone will try to pull the water to one’s mill, or they will realize that it is necessary to immediately start to put in train the reform of international calendars – clearly the most pressing issue of the moment.
THE GAMES AND THE VILLAGE The Tokyo Games might theoretically have some faint hopes if the Coronavirus will be conquered all over the world in the next two months. This clearly is a pious illusion. Now that the virus has been declared a global pandemic, it is unlikely that each country will come out quickly and in unison. The virus will expand more and more like a leopard’s spots and therefore it will be difficult to eradicate, unless a miraculous drug is found tomorrow. So how will the delegations from 205 nations or more enter the Olympic Village in perfect health in July? They will all have to be quarantined first, otherwise the Village could turn into a Red Zone in an instant. But also this possibility looks impossible according to US President Donald Trump’s speech yesterday. When referrring to the end of the Coronavirus contagion according to experts Trump said: “We’ll see what happens, but they think August, could be July, could be longer than that.”
POSTPONED There are of course suggestions to move the Games to October, like the ones that were celebrated in 1964. But how would it be possible to manage the accomodation, bearing in mind that the Japanese capital is already full for many other non-sporting events that month? In addition to the fact that many networks would not accept it. Furthermore, we must also consider that sport in this Northern Hemisphere summer must try to survive with few competitive events. But that would not be enough.
Postponing the Games to 2021 is a nice but unreliable hypothesis because all the international federations are planning their World Championships for the coming year. It is practically impossible that they can blow up the work of those organizing committees. The only solution could be found in the spring, but many sports will be already engaged in large events that must be convinced to move a little bit as they did this year. For example, the top marathons. Football will be in the most delicate position.
THE 2022 HYPOTHESIS It is certainly possible to think of postponing the Games until 2022, given that in that year in winter there are the Winter Games in Beijing and in November the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. In that case it is suggested that the Commonwealth and Asian Games as well as other events be cancelled or moved. This is also a complicated solution because everyone will try to defend their turf.
THE MOUNTAIN OF MONEY If the Tokyo Games are cancelled the IOC would certainly see a few billions of dollars fly out the window. Certainly it could recover some funds because the IOC is undoubtedly insured, but the body that rules the Five Rings will not be able to ensure the same share of money that it shared in the past with International Federations, National Olympic Committees and Olympic Solidarity – 1.9 billion US dollars. And this is no small matter, because without this money many international federations and Olympic Committees could face bankruptcy.
WHAT TO DO? The leading figures of sport must work together on transforming the international calendar. Currently the calendar is clogged up with the creation of new annual events – some of which are totally useless. A new calendar must be created, taking into account the fact that in future a period must be found, during the year, free from commitments where it is possible to recover events cancelled due to force majeure. This idea will probably be considered a utopia by many, but soon it will be a necessity. There are also those who said that Coronavirus was a joke and now we are experiencing a real nightmare.