explainer

Prince Harry has cancelled the Invictus Games. And yet, the Olympics are still going ahead.

Every day, we wake up to news of another cancellation.

The Invictus Games for wounded servicepeople is the latest event to fall to the coronavirus pandemic, with Britain’s Prince Harry confirming the news via Twitter.

“I’m really sorry we couldn’t make this happen. This was an incredibly difficult decision for all of us to have to make,” he said in the video message.

Harry added that it was the “most sensible and the safest option for all of you, for your families and everybody else involved in these games.

“I know how disappointed you all must be, this is a focus that so many of you need, I would encourage you to maintain that focus as best you can. The good news is that you have an extra 12 months to get even fitter!”

It looks like the games will be rescheduled for May or June 2021.

The Games are considered “Olympic style” in their nature, bringing together 500 competitors from 18 nations.

And yet still, the actual 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are powering on.

It feels like it’s the only major world event that’s still surging forward with preparations, as COVID-19 postpones and shuts down anything that involves the mingling of large groups of people.

But how?

How is the Olympics still going ahead, when everything else is cancelled?

Let’s unpack it.

The IOC position.

Japan is planning to host the Olympics as scheduled from July 24-August 9.

“The I.O.C. remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with over four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage,” Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said in a statement.

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“Any speculation at this moment would be counterproductive. The I.O.C. encourages all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can,” he added.

WATCH: Here’s Thomas Bach. Post continues after video.

Video via Reuters

This is all despite the fact this week the deputy chief of the Japanese Olympic Committee contracted the virus, as the country records upwards of 900 cases of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan has vowed, “We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned”.

How are the athletes feeling?

There have been reports of widespread stress, anxiety, and frustration. There’s also fear and heartbreak, at the thought four years worth of training and precise preparation could be rendered wasted.

“I think the I.O.C. insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive to humanity,” Hayley Wickenheiser, a Canadian hockey player and IOC athlete wrote on Twitter.

“This crisis is even bigger than the Olympics. Athletes can’t train, attendees can’t travel plan, sponsors and marketers can’t market with any degree of sensitivity,” she added.

British rowing great Matthew Pinsent wrote on Twitter that the comments from Bach, his former IOC colleague, were “tone deaf”.

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“The instinct to keep safe (not to mention obey government instructions to lock down) is not compatible with athlete training, travel and focus that a looming Olympics demands of athletes, spectators, organisers,” Pinsent wrote.

“Keep them safe. Call it off.”

“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” wrote Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi. “You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in four months.”

Hundreds of business managers in Japan are caught up in the will-they-won’t-they guessing game, with the New York Times reporting many are convinced there is no way it can go ahead.

Athletes around the world are being forced to change up their workout schedules to adapt to the current COVID-19 climate.

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Dual BMX Aussie Olympian Caroline Buchanan is in self-isolation and is turning to at-home workouts to keep on schedule.

Spain’s Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco would prefer the Olympics be postponed because of his athlete’s inability to train properly.

“The news that we get every day is uncomfortable for all countries around the world, but for us the most important thing is that our sportspeople cannot train and to celebrate the Games (as planned) would result in unequal conditions,” he said.

“We want the Olympics to take place, but with security. We’re an important country in the world and four months before the games, our athletes can’t arrive in equal conditions,” he added.

Athletes in France and Italy are equally as locked down and struggling to train.

What’s going to happen next?

According to Australia’s Olympic Committee, they’re looking at a range of extreme isolation options to protect athletes as the IOC moves forward with its “business as usual” stance.

“More base camps, longer base camps here in Australia before they depart for the Games,” chef de mission Ian Chesterman said, outlining some potential options.

“With a recognition they will be coronavirus free….

“We’ll also look at longer base camp options in Japan… there won’t be one giant base camp in Australia before the Games.

“Special charter flight arrangement potentially to take athletes into Tokyo and ensure the isolation period they’ve been taking is protected on the way to the Games.

“We’ll continue to work with the best minds in Australian sport… some sports have well-established plans and it’ll just be a matter of extending those plans,” he said.

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Concern In Japan As Covid-19 Continues To Spread
The area around the Olympic Rings and Olympic Stadium is pictured visibly quiet. Image: Carl Court/Getty.

But former IOC vice-president and long-time chair of its Press Commission, Kevan Gosper, has confirmed to the ABC, that without a vaccine or a slowdown of cases, a decision will be made to cancel the games in late April or May.

"If the situation doesn't improve, or vaccines aren't available, and it continues to escalate then the only possibility is that the Games will be cancelled," he told the broadcaster. "We're not talking postponed or transferred, it's cancelled."

"But at this stage everything is pointing to keeping ahead with the expectation the Games will be on," Gosper continued.

Speaking in Sydney today, AOC chief executive Matt Carroll is thinking more positively: "Think back to where this virus was a month ago. Things have changed".

"Nobody is quite sure how things will pan out in four to six months. They're taking a measured approach. They're getting the best possible advice they can possibly get," he said.

-With AAP

Feature image: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty.

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website. (edited) 

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