IMAGINE 11,000 people living, eating and sleeping in close proximity in the same complex amid a global pandemic.
Sounds bonkers, doesn’t it?
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Surely that would represent a disastrous breeding ground for infection.
Now imagine a massive sporting event where none of its stars has been properly drug-tested.
Sounds bonkers, doesn’t it?
Surely that would represent a disastrous breeding ground for cheats and dopers.
Well, that is the prospect we face if the Tokyo Olympics go ahead in 123 days’ time or, as now seems likely, they are postponed to later in the year.
For the first time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has listened to the chorus of athletes, national governing bodies and countries in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic. And, for the first time, a delay is on the table.
A decision will be made within the month.
The problem is this: If they delay the July 24 start to later in 2020 we might still be worried about contracting coronavirus and governments could still be advising self- isolation and social distance.
Maybe 2021 would be the safer option.
We just do not know if athletes will be carrying out their national flag wearing gloves and surgical masks.
The prospect of sticking the fittest people on the planet all together in the same petri dish for infection that is the Olympic Village would surely be gross negligence.
Callum Skinner, winner of Olympic cycling gold and silver for Team GB at Rio 2016, told SunSport: “There would be concerns in the Olympic Village. We’ve seen incidents of that in the past.
“It’s not unusual for higher-profile athletes to base themselves outside of the Village.
“It’s very much more in the forefront of our minds that we are having essentially an artificial village of people created from every corner of the globe.
“And they could bring anything with them. In terms of a self-isolation and containment perspective, it’s a bit of a nightmare.
“A lot of people hold the assumption that athletes are superheroes, but they are very susceptible to the same illnesses that everyone else faces.
There would be concerns in the Olympic Village. We’ve seen incidents of that in the past.”
“The most common reported illness by athletes at the Olympics are respiratory conditions and infections. About 47 per cent report that as a symptom. That becomes a double-edge sword.
“First, they are susceptible to illnesses and secondly, it could lead to false positives. They have to self-isolate because they have a cold and not Covid-19.
“Also, at the London Games approximately 700 out of 10,000 athletes were diagnosed asthmatic. Which in societal terms puts them in the ‘at-risk’ category.
“With the Paralympics there are a few more health complications, athletes with underlying health issues.”
Speaking on behalf of the pressure group Global Athlete, Skinner said he wanted the Olympics and Paralympics in Japan postponed on health and safety grounds.
Now retired from cycling, the 27-year-old Scot fronts the athlete-led movement which is a platform for more than 1,000 stars from about 62 countries.
Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools have been closed, denying wannabe Team GB members the chance to train properly.
Videos have emerged of some clever-clogs exercising on sofas or in their garages.
But Skinner said: “They have seen training venues closed across the country and that’s where it starts to seriously impact. Though home work-outs have become quite fashionable, you can’t train for an Olympic Games in your house!
“There are some sports that get away with it. But we’re talking the pinnacle of sporting competition every four years. If we are trying to pursue a normal Games, it deserves better preparation than most athletes have at the moment.”
According to the World Health Organisation, there have been more than 13,000 deaths related to coronavirus and 300,000-plus confirmed cases in 184 countries.
Tragically, those numbers will continue to rise.
A sporting side-effect of the outbreak could be an increase in drug cheats — with claims the Tokyo Olympics could become the “dirtiest” ever if they go ahead this summer.
That is the view of respected anti-doping chiefs, who are worried drug cheats will take advantage of a reduction in testing due to self-isolation.
Several countries have said they have had to scale back.
American Travis Tygart is renowned for being the man who brought down seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and disgraced athletics coach Alberto Salazar. As the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, his opinion matters greatly.
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He said: “This situation creates serious compromise to the global anti-doping system. There is a very high risk that fairness towards athletes falls by the wayside. It’s a mistake to think otherwise.
“From purely an anti-doping standpoint and in fairness to clean athletes, the Olympics should be moved.
“So we don’t host the Olympics just for the sake of it. But to be certain that we don’t witness the dirtiest Games we’ve ever seen.”