With the Olympics cancelled for this year along with just about every other major international sporting event and now cracks beginning to show between the Japanese – who have shouldered the cost of all the Tokyo Olympics hardware – and the International Olympic Committee even looking forward to 2021 must have a degree of uncertainty about it.
On the one side we have the realists, the Japanese, stating that if COVID-19 isn’t under control then the Games could be cancelled rather than postponed another year. These statements of doubt come from none other than the President of the Japanese Organising Committee and the Prime Minister. On the other side the International Olympic Committee saying the Games won’t be cancelled. Their optimism perhaps being understandable as they only have a sporting event to run while the Japanese Government have rather bigger fish to fry, a whole country.
And lets be clear. The language used by the ‘hosts’ didn’t state if ‘social distancing was observed’ or ‘if a vaccine proves effective’ they carefully used the term “under control” which could have many connotations.
And what about the impact on other elements of our sport, the Olympic Regatta being only a couple of handful of races across a couple of handful of classes.
Perhaps the biggest impact, and certainly the most dangerous is that if the IOC doesn’t have the funds from a Games then what about World Sailing’s funding? Already in the financial do-do from the costs of expensive offices and infrastructure the loss of around 50% of their income must bring further hurt to an organisation which has already had to dip into reserves to meet ongoing costs. The COVID-19 has meant that most of the staff have been furloughed and the office is running on a shoestring from what I hear.
It would be very easy to point fingers at Kim Andersen and his executive committee but two things should be remembered. Firstly the expensive CEO and new offices were not his call plus the relatively inexpensive offices in Southampton were already at bursting point (personal observation from the occasions when I visited) and the lease was on the point of expiry with no option to extend.
The second point is of course that Kim, along with many of the officers of World Sailing are in an unpaid position, ie they are volunteers in common with many who facilitate our sport for others an most countries of the world and at most levels of our sport.
The average club, I’m sure, couldn’t function without the members who step up to the mark (and it is always the same ones) while those most critical (again the same ones – you know who you are) never lift a finger to assist with running the club – I can think of a number I have come across during my various committee roles.
Indeed many events couldn’t function without, what is sometimes, an army of these people. From personal experience a Volvo Stopover depends on these guys (and gals) who are mainly youngsters and I doubt if an Olympiad could even function without them..
Of course the Olympics challenges with COVID-19 are just an indicator of where this pandemic may have further impacts. I read a few days ago of the challenges facing the America’s Cup Challengers in getting their personnel into New Zealand. If we get a second wave of COVID-19 could it mean the main event will perhaps be further impacted. Potentially huge ramifications for all the teams involved, both from a performance AND a financial viewpoint.
And recently Mark Turner, co-founder of Offshore Challenges (latterly OC Sport) and for a time the Volvo Ocean Race CEO raised doubts about the desire or ability of potential sponsors CEOs or Marketing Directors being able to justify sponsoring a yacht race or any sailing team when suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19.
I doubt very much if this coronavirus has finished with its impacts on our sport, sport in general or indeed the whole world quite yet.
In fact without sounding too pessimistic I think that unless people (again they know who they are) stop pointing fingers and trying to move blame for the effects away from themselves, and start thinking about working together for the sake of the world’s collective future, then the impact of COVID-19, long term, will be far more serious than it needs to be.
Sorry if that starts to sound a little bit political but perhaps some people need to step back and collectively start to think how we defeat this virus and move forward.
PS In Shanghai they have just re-opened sailing so there is an end to this COVID-19 if we play things right.