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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour, 01 October 2000, after the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. After sixteen days of breathtaking sporting action, the curtain descended on the XXVII Olympiad with an extravaganza as spectacular as the opening ceremony. At least one and a half million people crammed around Sydney's harbour to watch the fireworks display billed as the biggest on earth.

COVID-19: Olympics 'Step Up Scenario Planning' For 2020 Summer Games

Gettyimages | ROBYN BECK
By Alyssa McCraw

Out of all of the major events that were scrapped, the Olympics are still a go - for now.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on March 22nd that it will "step up its planning for The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020" in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Sunday statement comes after the traditional torch-lighting ceremony in Greece on March 12th, a second ceremony handing off the torch to Japan on March 19th, and third same-day ceremony upon the flame's arrival in the host country via aircraft.

HIGASHIMATSUSHIMA, JAPAN - MARCH 20: Representatives including Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura (6-R), Saori Yoshida (5-R) and Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori (7-R) wave on the stage during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Flame Arrival Ceremony at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Air Base on March 20, 2020 in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi, Japan.
Gettyimages | Tomohiro Ohsumi

Outside of committee members and press personnel, all three events were barren of an audience - and although it is one of the most celebrated, cross-cultural constants, the IOC states that "changes to the start date of the Games" may occur.

"This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved."

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 05: A man wearing a face mask has his photograph taken in front of the Olympic Rings in Odaiba on March 5, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. An increasing number of events and sporting fixtures are being cancelled or postponed around Japan while some businesses are closing or asking their employees or work from home as Covid-19 cases continue to grow and concerns mount over the possibility that the epidemic will force the postponement or even cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics.
Gettyimages | Carl Court

"On the one hand, there are significant improvements in Japan where the people are warmly welcoming the Olympic Flame," their Sunday statement read. "This could strengthen the IOC’s confidence in the Japanese hosts that the IOC could, with certain safety restrictions, organize Olympic Games in the country whilst respecting its principle of safeguarding the health of everyone involved."

Historically, the Olympic Flame is taken on a week-long relay in Greece after its lighting. After two days of successful relating, the remaining portion of Greek leg was canceled due to the pandemic.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 05: Michael Phelps of the United States carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Gettyimages | Cameron Spencer

Olympic officials in Japan have placed the flame in a stationary landmark location, presumably to deter large crowds from gathering across its final, four-month stretch of the relay.

The IOC's lengthy letter detailed out many of the moving parts that are involved in what could be said is the biggest event of any kind. One example was that "a number of critical venues needed for the Games could potentially not be available anymore." Additionally, they mentioned that the "millions of nights already booked in hotels" are already "extremely difficult to handle."

TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 26: A woman wearing a face mask uses a smartphone as she takes a photograph in front of the Olympic rings at night on February 26, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Concerns that the Tokyo Olympics may be postponed or cancelled are increasing as Japan confirms 862 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and as some professional sporting contests are being called off or rescheduled and some major Japanese corporations ask for people to work from home.
Gettyimages | Tomohiro Ohsumi

It's such a huge contraption, if you will, that "the international sports calendar for at least 33 Olympic sports would have to be adapted." This point is possibly highly exacerbated by the already-indefinite schedules that the sporting universe is currently facing.

"The IOC [executive board] emphasized that a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody. Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda."

In short, the world will not be without the 2020 Olympic Games - it's just a matter of when or if the 2020 Olympic Games will happen in 2020.

Read the IOC's full-length statement here.

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