After being postponed for a year due to the pandemic, the Olympics will hold its opening ceremony this Friday in Tokyo, Japan. Sounds good, right? They did the smart thing and postponed the Olympics so that the world could take the year and get our COVID shit together … so that, you know, the Olympics won’t turn into a superspreader event.
Except, there still very much is a pandemic going on. In fact, cases have risen all over the world due to the Delta variant and the fact that most of the world still isn’t vaccinated. Oh, and guess what? It’s especially raging in Japan right now, where only 22% of the population is fully vaccinated. According to the BBC, Japan has declared an official state of emergency due to rising cases.
It’s no wonder that, according to The New York Times, only 22% of Japanese citizens feel comfortable having the event take place in their country. I mean, who the heck can blame them? Why on earth would you want athletes and spectators from all over the world—where the Delta variant is raging—to come hang out in your country, and risk even more spread?
What exactly are we doing, folks? Haven’t we learned yet that during a worldwide pandemic, where millions of people are dying of a highly contagious virus, some things have to be put on hold? Especially the things that actually aren’t essential?
Look, I know that the Olympics mean a lot to many folks. There are athletes that have trained their whole lives for this moment, and there is something so beautiful and meaningful about that. But none of that is worth risking more lives, more spread of the virus.
Yes, the Olympics organizers are doing what they can to curb the spread. According to The Hill, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a rigorous program in place of testing, quarantining, and contract tracing. Spectators will not be in attendance, and 85% of athletes are fully vaccinated.
But when you bring together folks from all over the world, during a time when the most contagious variant of COVID to date has been all over spreading like wildfire, you are most definitely putting many people at risk. There’s no two ways about it.
In fact, it’s already happening. The Hill reports that there have been 71 cases connected to the Olympics so far, and that includes 31 visitors from other countries who are coming to Japan for the games. And you can bet your ass that that number is only going to rise. Because, you know, that’s how virus outbreaks work.
And listen up: It’s not just me with my Debbie Downer attitude. Francis Collins, who is the freaking director of the National Institutes of Health Director, expressed concern about the health implications of the Olympics in an interview with The Washington Post.
When asked if he’s concerned that the Olympics could become a superspreader event, he said, “I think everybody is worried about that, with people coming from all over the world, some of which are places that don’t have access to vaccines yet.”
Again, I ask the same damn question: WHAT EXACTLY ARE WE DOING HERE?
Look, living through a pandemic is not easy. It’s full of difficult decisions. It’s been almost 18 months of this crap, and all of us need to find ways to lead as full a life as possible, given the circumstances. But that doesn’t mean we throw all caution to the wind, and keep moving through life as though nothing serious is happening.
And when I say we have to figure out how to live our own lives, I’m talking about the basics: working, staying sane, keeping our kids happy and loved, figuring out safe ways to get in a little healthy socializing. No one—and I mean, no one—actually needs the Olympics.
You have to wonder if the push to make the Olympics happen when there are so many obvious bad possible outcomes is not simply because people really need the Olympics to feel whole and happy. Make no mistake, just like so many shitty decisions that have been made during the pandemic, a lot of this comes down to—you guessed it—money and profit.
As The New York Times reports, NBC has already sold $1.25 billion dollars in ads. Jeff Shell, chief executive at NBC said that this year’s Olympics “could be our most profitable Olympics in the history of the company.”
Profits over people, folks. That’s the end game here.
Imagine if the execs at NBC and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had said to themselves, “Okay, it looks like the pandemic is still happening, and actually it’s gotten worse over the past few months. 4 million people around the world have already died of COVID, and most of the world is still unvaccinated. Every life is precious, and we don’t want to risk spreading this virus to vulnerable people. We can’t imagine being responsible for more loss of life.”
Sigh. A girl can dream, right?
Until then, I guess all we can do is hope that the Olympics don’t become as huge a superspreader event as many people are fearing that they will—and that someday humans will learn that protecting the lives of others should take precedence, always, no matter what.