Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, delivered a somber announcement in a quavering voice on Tuesday.
Concerned about the potential for the Olympic games to become a disease vector for the spread of the coronavirus, the quavering member of the IOC laid bare a harsh reality that must have felt like a stiff slap in the face to the Japanese Olympic Committee and the city of Tokyo. The outbreak of the coronavirus in Japan must be contained by late May or, according to Dick Pound, the 2020 Summer Olympics—which Tokyo was hotly anticipating—are likely not to come at all.
"In and around that time, I'd say folks are going to have to ask: 'Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?'"
Once a champion swimmer for Canada, Dick Pound shed his speedo in the 1960s to insert himself into the business end of the Canadian Olympic Committee. Since then, his prominent membership in Olympic business has included serving as a vice president of the IOC and as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency—an organization that seeks to detect and penalize competitors who would use performance enhancement to artificially inflate their natural endowments. In his current capacity as a figurehead for the IOC, Dick Pound reliably takes on heavy loads and doesn't shrink from hard burdens—even if it means exposing himself to harsh criticism.
That is certainly the case with this announcement. Shortly after Dick Pound's shocking disclosure, Twitter began bursting forth with his name. Supporters of the JOC—who no doubt feel that Tokyo is being shafted in this raw deal—are shooting off sly comments and memes in response. Nonetheless, Dick Pound will not compromise his commitment to the safety of active participants and those who only come to watch.
While the IOC is keeping itself wide open to surprising developments that may arise, the late May deadline provides a flexible barrier that Dick Pound knows is necessary in order to prevent infections from spreading. Where it's possible to thoroughly fill a hole in safety procedures, Dick Pound is the man to fill that hole, but he also knows his limits. Dick Pound will not risk trying to fill every hole in a stadium full of infected people. If that means they don't get to come at all, he will make the hard choice and leave them wanting more.
The important thing in these situations is that no one should be made the victim of unwanted spreading. That's what Dick Pound is working so hard to ensure.