North Korea's Sports Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that it won't be sending its athletes for the Olympic events to be held this year in Japan's capital city Tokyo. After announcing this decision, North Korea became the first country to officially drop out from the Olympics due to Covid-19 concerns.
The East Asian country has reportedly zero active cases of Covid-19, and Japan - which is around 1,000 km away - has under 25,000 active cases. But North Korea's area of concern is the safety of their athletes, due to the threat of contingents from around 200 countries flying in for the events.
North Korea's decision might trigger fear in other nations, which might lead to a ripple effect of sorts. Sports ministries of various countries would demand a more detailed inspection of the infrastructure for the safety of their athletes and other staff.
Even without a crowd, any sporting event requires several ground staff, broadcasting staff, volunteers and organizers. The upcoming Tokyo Olympics is expected to host more than 300 events, with over 2,000 athletes participating in them. As of now, only overseas spectators have been prohibited from traveling, but local crowds are expected to attend most of the events.
With the sporting world having already coped with the effects of the virus, the chances of this year's Tokyo Olympics being canceled appear bleak at this stage - even with a global rise in cases amid new mutations of the virus. The estimated cost of organizing this year's Olympics is around $15 Billion, and further cancelation or postponement will result in immediate losses.
Tokyo Olympics is still a reality for most nations and athletes at this point
While the scheduled event is still over a hundred days away, many decisions have to be made at this point - such as squads for specific sports, and long term decisions for individual athletes. The qualifiers for many events are taking place even at this point, while some qualification events are getting canceled or postponed.
The closest forecast for this year's Olympics could be a well-organized event with slightly fewer participating nations and athletes than those that were expected when the dates were announced. The event should be a smooth one, and fans around the world should be able to enjoy the broadcast from the comfort of their homes.
For many athletes, this year's Olympics could be a life-changing experience. It could be a make-or-break for the careers of many of them. And for those who have decided this year's Olympics will be their last, a cloud of uncertainty still looms.