Rising infections, increasing deaths, new variants and more lockdowns have put a question mark next to sporting events.
The Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead this year after being postponed from last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach said, adding that there is “no plan B”.
With just more than six months to go until the postponed Games, doubts have grown about whether the international event will be viable with the pandemic still raging across much of the world.
Organisers have produced a number of safety measures they say will allow the Games to go ahead, even if the pandemic is not under control, and without requiring vaccinations.
But public support in Japan is low, with approximately 80 percent of respondents in recent polling favouring either a further delay or outright cancellation.
“We have, at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July,” Bach told Kyodo News.
“This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful.”
Tokyo 2020’s CEO Toshiro Muto told the AFP news agency this week that organisers were “unwavering” in their commitment to holding the Games this year and that cancellation had not been discussed.
But he conceded he could not guarantee the stands would be full or rule out the possibility of a Games held without spectators.
A decision on whether foreign fans will be able to attend, and how many spectators will be possible, is expected later this year.
The Games are due to open on July 23, with the nationwide torch relay scheduled to kick off in late March.
Various events and tournaments around the world have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic.
The 2021 Women’s Cricket World Cup has been pushed back by a year, and the 2020 men’s World Twenty20 was also postponed.
Women’s Six Nations rugby tournament had a similar fate but authorities are confident the men’s event will go ahead as scheduled in February.
Earlier this month, the Asian Beach Games in the Chinese city of Sanya were also postponed for a second time.
“The Tokyo Olympics should be cancelled. International and global events should be curtailed for the moment. Crowds of any size are just not wise for the rest of this year,” David Goldblatt, sportswriter, journalist and author, told Al Jazeera.
More than 96 million cases of the coronavirus have been reported globally with more than two million deaths. The US has been the worst affected with almost 25 million cases and more than 406,000 deaths.