With the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo officially kicking off today, one year late, another major sporting event is being held without fans.
This follows the EURO 2020 soccer championship, also held in 2021, which featured a mix of empty stadiums, partially full stadiums and a few capacity crowds. In-house hockey fans became more prevalent as the recent Stanley Cup playoffs unfolded, and the NBA Finals seemed no different than pe-COVID years, with venues filled to capacity inside and large crowds gathered outside cheering on their teams.
The Olympics are another monster entirely. Only the FIFA World Cup of Soccer compares to the summer games among the world’s biggest and most watched sporting events.
But unlike the previously mentioned events that also garner national and international in-person attention, the Tokyo Olympics will play out in empty stadiums, with athletes performing only in front of their fellow competitors, games personnel, and volunteers required to be on site for each event.
The Japanese Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee will be attempting to pull off a safe and successful event on a massive scale during a state of emergency in Tokyo, the host city, due to COVID-19. Multiple participants have already tested positive for coronavirus within the athletes’ village bubble, in a country where vaccination rates are low due to multiple factors, including being later than most countries to approve vaccines, and not allowing mixing of those that have been approved.
With the world watching from afar on television, gold, silver and bronze medals are not the only thing athletes are hoping to achieve, or what fans from all countries will be hoping for. Returning home without a positive COVID-19 diagnosis will also be considered a podium worthy finish.