The Long Count Down to the Summer Olympics
If you were watching the first-ever, mega weekend of NFL Wild Card football on NBC, chances are you spotted commercial spots previewing the upcoming Summer Olympics. In those thirty seconds, viewers re-lived some of the most incredible Olympic moments from the past and were reminded of the promise of their return.
This dream has been more than deferred and the clock is now ticking loudly as organizers, broadcasters, athletes, and fans await the arrival of the opening ceremonies.
The costs of dealing with the pandemic delays have added close to $1 billion dollars to the costs of the Tokyo games. With less than 200 days left until the Olympics and a newly-imposed state of emergency in Japan, many questions remain about whether the games will go on. Olympic organizers have stated in the past, that if the games were postponed, they’d likely not be rescheduled.
Perhaps, other than the World Cup, few events unite a global fanbase more than the Olympics. This particular version of the Summer Olympics could be an opportunity to celebrate our collective resilience while also allowing us to gather and celebrate safely for the first time in more than 18 months.
It depends on a number of factors, however.
Will Games Go On?
Right now, the biggest question looming for everyone is whether or not the Olympics are a go.
So far, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has held firm that fans will be attending the events. To supplement that goal, his team has been championing the global race to inoculate people with a COVID-19 vaccine.
Simultaneously, some anti-Olympic sentiment has been clouding the event’s arrival as the price tag soars towards $300 billion. This, of course, comes at the inopportune time when many countries are experiencing rising cases and hospitalization rates.
Still, some IOC members are thinking positively.
“They certainly had an upsurge, and that has worried them, rightly so. But they’ve taken the steps that are required, and they’ve taken them quickly,” Dick Pound, the longest-serving IOC member, told The Washington Post. “This is going to change. The situation will change over the next two weeks, four weeks. I think it’s far too early to panic at this stage. I would give it 3-to-1 odds of going ahead on the basis of what we know today.”
Above all, the IOC is hoping that regardless of global vaccinations, that fans will get vaccinated second in line to the frontline workers, medical professionals, and the old and vulnerable in society.
Vaccines for Fans, Athletes
Right now, Japan is aiming for an early spring timeframe to decide whether or not they’ll admit fans from overseas.
One of the strategies the IOC may implement is evaluating fans attending from countries based on that location’s case metrics. If a country had a relatively low case rate, they could be allowed entry while skipping Japan’s quarantine requirements.
No matter what, athletes will be tested heavily. We’ve learned over the past year from athletes and other professional sports:
- Olympic athletes were resilient and when they couldn’t train in gyms, they used their homes. As the world opens up and the Olympics looms closer, the opportunities to train together with teammates will increase.
- Professional competition last year involved lots of gadgets, rings, and apps. Technology will only increase how we track athletes heading to the Olympics so that safety will be a top priority for officials and organizers.
- When sports could not proceed safely with fans, leagues like NASCAR and the NBA got creative. Esports filled the gap for racecar drivers and became some of the most highly-watched live sports last year. The NBA incorporated its fans on digital screens within the Disney bubble. Will the Olympics come up with similar technology to “greet” and cheer fans in Tokyo if fans are not allowed?
- The PGA proved they could rapidly and consistently test pros on the Tour, and then efficiently shuttle them to the next course on the docket. It will be interesting to see how the Olympics moves athletes around Tokyo and the surrounding venues.
👉🏼 Speaking of racing, be sure to check out NASCAR webinar where you can learn the ins, outs, and all the left turns to how they got back to racing safely. The webinar, The Way Back: Emerging Paradigms As NASCAR Returns Live (and Online) is available to watch here.
Many professional leagues that were in bubbles last year are now operating in their home stadiums and traveling from venue to venue while maintaining strict pandemic protocols and safety measures.
For the summer games, athletes must obtain a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before they arrive in Japan. Once they arrive, they’ll be required to be tested every 96-120 hours throughout the duration of the games.
Organizers will deciding whether or not to implement health tracking apps to help make things easier to manage, including:
- Facilitate contact tracing from entry to Olympic venues.
- Within the app, fans can store all their important documents including Visas, travel documentation, and test results.
Turning Negative Into Positive Through Tech
An app like this starts to introduce improvements to the in-game experience when the world returns to normal.
At the Tokyo Olympics, organizers envision distributing unique IDs to each fan account, which can then be used to gain access to various Olympic venues.
One of the biggest changes sports fans will see around the globe is process improvement to ticketing, venue access, and even purchasing items and obtaining service once you’re seated.
Dr. John Torres is a senior medical correspondent for NBC News and he believes that the examples we’ve already seen from other professional sporting leagues will set a positive path forward for the Olympic organizers. With less than 200 days to go until the opening ceremonies, they’ve had lots of time and information to review about what will work and what won’t work as they plan on staging the most challenging games ever.
Torres thinks there is a good chance the games will continue as planned in 2021, but that the key will be having contingency plans for almost any scenario including mandatory testing, masking, and even restricting fans from visiting and creating a “bubble” as we’ve seen like in the NBA.
“I’m very confident that we’ll be able to see the Olympics in July and August 2021 for a couple reasons. One, because they’ve postponed them a year and we’ve learned a lot about the virus and how to handle it,” said Torres. “And two, it’s one of those symbols that’s going to show us that yes, we’re getting through, we’re getting back to at least a new normal and it’s something that we can all look forward to and give the whole world confidence that together, we will get through the pandemic.”
The world has gotten uber-competitive. Expectations are high and now technology is at the forefront of helping coaches and athletes understand how to get the gold. As you wait for the games to begin, get hyped with this video about how we’re getting ready.