Column: Chances of Tokyo 2020 Olympics being canceled due to coronavirus? Zero

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Expect the five-ring circus to continue as planned this summer – even if there may be legitimate concerns to move or even completely cancel said circus.

The flagship sporting event on the calendar this year – both inside and outside the women’s basketball realm – is the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Tokyo was awarded the Olympics back in 2013 – a year after the London 2012 Olympics took place which saw Team USA claim its fifth of what has become six consecutive gold medal-winning performances.

Recently, because of the outbreak of the coronavirus which has spread throughout Asia (with cases in the United States), it has caused plenty of concern of whether the Olympic cauldron will even be lit this summer in Japan.

In women’s basketball circles, FIBA recently moved a portion of its Olympic qualifying tournament from China to Serbia. The four countries that participated in that leg of the tournament were China, Great Britain, Korea and Spain with China, Korea and Spain qualifying for the Olympics.

At a recent forum hosted by the Los Angeles Sparks that included its very own Chiney Ogwumike as well as WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, she was asked by Winsidr’s John Davis about how it and the NBA are monitoring the developments.

Engelbert talked about the possibility of “special competitions” that could take place if the Olympics were to be canceled.


…In my prior life, I did a lot of scenario planning so we’re already thinking about that. Some of my owners have already called to say, ‘What are we going to do because we need to keep the conversation going. We need to keep the focus going.

–Cathy Engelbert (per Winsidr)

The fears that the Olympics will be canceled were raised when International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound sounded an alarm regarding Tokyo 2020 and the coronavirus that a decision may have to be reached by May.


In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’

–IOC’s Dick Pound (per Associated Press)

What would happen if Lausanne decided that it would not be safe to go to Tokyo this summer?


…you’re probably looking at a cancellation.

–IOC’s Dick Pound (per Associated Press)

Elementary and middle school jokes about the man’s name aside, let us get to the real meat of the conversation here. What are the chances there will actually be a cancelation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

We do not need the Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook to give us these odds. All we need is this Animal House clip.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will go on as planned and when the Games are complete, Olympics organizers will play to the crowd when the flame has been extinguished (and torch passed to Paris for 2024) as if they went off without a hitch.

Pound’s quote of a potential cancellation is pure public relations posturing. It is the right thing to say that cancellation is on the table with concerns (and the virus) itself only spreading. It makes the IOC look as if they are really keeping abreast of the latest developments regarding the coronavirus and as if it is looking out for the best interests of athletes, coaches, staff, fans and media that will head to Tokyo for the Olympics.

When all is said and done, the conversation on whether to cancel the Olympics will come down to one thing and one thing only – and that is cold hard cash, whether it is in Japanese yen or American dollars.

And much of those American dollars are coming by way of NBC.

In 2011, when NBC was bidding for the right to broadcast the Olympics through 2020 (with some stiff competition from ESPN and Fox), it shockingly won the rights to the Games with 30 Rock shelling out an eye-popping $4.38 billion for the Games through 2020.

NBC, being the major media corporation it is, is all about return on investment. If the IOC even ponders the thought of nixing the Games, Lausanne can expect a very stern talking to over the phone from the powers that be in New York and Philadelphia.

NBC likely has big plans for its wall-to-wall Tokyo Olympics coverage that will likely include the main NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com, the Olympic Channel and its new Peacock streaming service. Plus, the 2020 Olympics will begin approximately a week or so after the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Expect the Democratic nominee for president whether it is Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or whoever (and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) to throw big money in 30 Rock’s direction for television ads.

That is not even taking into consideration what other media outlets around the world are paying to broadcast the Olympics – or what other media outlets around the world are budgeting to send reporters to the Olympics.

Also, lets us also remember a 2018 report that shows Japan could spend at least $25 billion (or even more) for the Olympics – and that could go even higher. When Tokyo bid for the Olympics, that number for its Games budget was a mere $7.3 billion, meaning that budget has ballooned (the way most Olympic budgets do) by roughly three times the initial amount when Tokyo was only a “candidate city.” No way Shinzo Abe’s government would spend that much money for the Olympic Games only for there to be – no Olympic Games.

Tokyo, before being named 2020’s summer Games host, had lusted for a bit to host its first Olympics since 1964. It was one of four finalist cities (along with Rio, Madrid and Chicago) vying for 2016.

In addition, these concerns about the coronavirus also occurred in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics in the form of the Zika virus outbreak. In fact, Hope Solo of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team had “Zika!” chanted in her direction when she touched the ball at the Rio Olympics.

Those Olympics were still completed despite the Zika concerns and these Olympics will go on as planned, coronavirus or no coronavirus.

In a perfect world, would there be a possible cancelation or rescheduling of the Olympics? Absolutely. In a perfect world, the health and well-being of those going to the Olympics in Tokyo would be far more important than the money that is being shelled out by governments and television networks to broadcast the Olympics? Absolutely.

In a perfect world, these Olympics would at least be put on hold until there is enough confidence that it is safe for those traveling to travel and that they will be fully immune from the coronavirus. Safety should come first and precautionary measures should be taken by national teams, fans and media in case it has not been contained within the next few months.

But there is no way the Olympics will be canceled … because those that are all in on the Games have a lot more than zero-point-zero reasons to ensure there are flames coming from the Olympic cauldron for those two weeks.

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