Sports Take: Light the Torch: 2021 Olympics should still go on

A woman poses for a selfie in front of Olympic rings at Odaiba waterfront in Tokyo, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. The postponed Tokyo Games are scheduled to open on July 23. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

As with many sporting events this year, most expected the 2020 Olympic Games to look a little different. What wasn’t as expected, however, was their postponement to the summer of 2021.

The Games were moved to 2021 in hopes that the world would be in a better position to participate in a global event of that magnitude. Summer 2021 is well on its way, and the Games are all but set.

On Friday, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo would bring “hope and courage” to the world via the hosting the Olympics. As nice as that sounds, that’s not always been the sentiment coming out of Japan. On Jan. 18, a report surfaced from the Times of London claiming that the Japanese government had concluded the Games would be cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. As multiple events have shown this year, that doesn’t have to be the case.

While the Olympics cut bait on Summer 2020, the NBA did not. Instead, the league created a “bubble” at the Disney World campus in Orlando. This enabled the NBA to ensure that the athletes were not leaving the competition area, eliminating the risk of players contracting COVID-19 during the playoff period. The Orlando bubble was a rousing success, even leading to some fan calls for an 82-game bubble season for 2021. While that was never going to be a reality, a bubble Olympics is very possible.

Looking at the map of the Tokyo facilities, there are two distinct zones, the Tokyo Bay and Heritage zones, to be specific. This lends itself wonderfully to a bubble-esque setup, creating one for each of the competition zones. In a perfect world, this would allow athletes to compete at a high level without worrying about contracting COVID-19.

Can I promise that’s exactly what would happen? No, I can’t, but it sounds a whole lot better than a complete cancellation. Tokyo has had almost a year to figure their end out, but Florida has made themselves available should the Land of the Rising Sun bow out.

Florida’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee, asking that they consider Florida as a potential backup site. Patronis cited the success of the NBA bubble in Orlando, along with the UFC championships in Jacksonville, Fla. Patronis also claimed that Florida is working faster than other states in terms of vaccine distribution, something that would likely be appealing to foreign attendees.

Whether in Florida or Tokyo, there’s little reason to hold off on the Games in 2021. Yes, there’s a pandemic. I know. That doesn’t mean sports can’t happen. The NBA has done it, UFC did it, the NFL is set to have a Super Bowl this year.

The Olympics can, and should, go off on time. Not to mention that the Olympics would be a great relief in an era that’s brought one issue after another. Recent reports out of Japan suggest that the Games are a go, and we can only hope that they are.