AUSTIN (KXAN) — The 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo will take place, and the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says the committee would prefer they happen with spectators.
Bach said Thursday the IOC is fully committed to holding the games and said that holding the competitions behind closed doors is “something we do not want.” However, it is exploring multiple scenarios for how they can take place safely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The IOC is expected to meet Friday to discuss additional details of what the Games could look like.
In March, the 2020 Olympics was pushed to next year because of the pandemic, and the Associated Press reported this week that the 2022 Dakar Youth Olympics have been postponed to 2026. Meanwhile, the Beijing Winter Olympics are still on for winter 2022.
Dr. Stephen Thomas, the Infectious Disease division chief at the Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, New York, says the current COVID-19 situation has a similar pattern to the 1918 flu pandemic, in which states experienced different peaks of infections depending on what interventions they made — including social distancing or canceling large events — and how soon they rolled back those interventions.
“Unfortunately, this is — this (increase in cases) was something that we hoped would not happen, but it clearly has and I think it’s a direct reflection on the early removal of those aggressive public health interventions that were initially implemented,” Thomas said.
As of Thursday morning, the United States reported more than 60,000 new cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. Japan had more than 300.
Thomas said he does not see fans as an option right now and that even without fans keeping people safe would be a challenge.
“Even if you just have the athletes and you have the people that support the athletes and you have the infrastructure that needs to be in place at the location of competition — that’s still tens of thousands of people. So I, you know, I really don’t see — without some major intervention coming, becoming widely available in a short period of time, namely a vaccine — I don’t see how there’s any other plan for an Olympics a year from now.”
Meanwhile, many athletes around the world are pivoting how they train in the middle of the pandemic, with many spending time in home gyms, local trails or their backyards.
Kayle Browning, a sport shooter, has been fortunate in her training. She already had a regulation Olympic shooting range in her backyard, which her father built for her in 2006.
“It’s peaceful out here, I can shoot, my neighbors don’t complain because I don’t have any,” Browning said in an interview with Nexstar sister station KARK. “I mean I can literally walk out my front door and train which I need to.”
Others train in home gyms, like Team USA track and field athlete Shakima Wimbley, in their backyards like Brazilian hurdle runner Marcio Teles, or in their homes (sometimes in their living rooms) like Brazilian BMX athlete Renato Rezende or Colombian judo athlete Luz Adiela Alvarez.