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At What Cost? – Issue 15

We start this article with an apology. Even an astute and prestigious news gathering institution like Nexus can miss major headlines, and we missed a big one. Apparently in the last few weeks humankind finally put a price on a human life. It turned out to be a surprisingly low $26,190,476. At least we think it is. That is what we got when we divided the $7.7 billion US the Olympics will generate by the 294 people who will die in Japan from COVID during its 21 days of competition. 


Of course that $26,000,000 is subject to change because it is based on current COVID statistics and doesn’t account for the pietree dish of nations that are about to fly in and populate stadiums and bars all over Japan, let alone the significant communal drinking in bars across the world. But hey, the Olympics must go ahead because we can’t cancel them because… sports!


Now, it’s worth noting that we fucking love the Olympics. Genuinely, fucking love the Olympics. We also know that hundreds died either directly because of, or at least during the Rio Olympics. And we have searched the archives and can’t find a single reference to Nexus calling for caution in Rio in 2016. It’s also worth noting, at least for our own hypocrisy, that somewhere in the office or in the WSU Basement we will be watching every minute we can of this. But just because we are absolutely part of the problem doesn’t mean we can’t also call for a solution.


This horse has already bolted but we wanted to be on the record saying someone should have cancelled this fucking Olympics, and the Euro’s and the Copa Del América and every sporting event where a delta variant is on the rise and mask wearing is still somehow a debate of science versus faith. 


Of course, the International Olympic Committee and their equivalent, the Japanese Ministry for Culture and Sport have come out and stated that the Olympic Village will be perfectly safe, even as athlete withdrawals with positive COVID tests (at time of print) are approaching double figures. And you know what? They are probably right. Was anyone actually worried that the small group of elite athletes spending time at the hedonistic orgy we call the Olympic Village were in any real danger? Most have had a vaccine, others are the best equipped (though not guaranteed) to fight off a virus. Genuinely, there is more of a concern about pregnancy and chlamydia than COVID for the athletes themselves.


But to only look through that narrow prism completely misses the point. It isn’t the athletes, but the fat sloppy joes, the average slightly-built nobodys, and those looking to escape their meaningless existence for a few weeks in an attempt to stand on the shoulders of giants, that are the cause for concern. Sporting crowds are super spreader events. It is the friends and supporters whose bodies aren’t in peak condition, those in the bars at Tokyo, who are taking in a once in a lifetime experience. They are all going to congregate in Japan and then disseminate a potential wave of a virus across the world to every nation. And while we may have the screening programmes to ensure we stay safe, we aren’t the third world.


There are, of course, no easy answers to any of this. The over simplified version of it is to say that it would be completely unfair to ask anyone who has sacrificed a decade of their life training, and working to fulfil a dream to defer that. Athletes only have a limited window at Olympic level and for a generation of them this may be their only chance. That alone is a compelling enough argument for the games to continue, except it tries to carve out an exception for itself. If the last two years had a motto it would be “scientia humana libertas” – protecting greater good. See mum, I told you Latin would come in handy! We have all been told that we need to make sacrifices – we spent six months inside making sourdough and damaging our livers for the greater good. And now the Olympics threaten that for some people. We started by saying the Olympics have to go ahead. It’s worth noting that the three times it hasn’t since 1885 have all been because of World Wars. With five million people dead due to COVID, it pales in comparison to the fatalities of WWI (20 million) and WWII (50-70 million) but it at least gets a bronze and stands on the podium. Surely that alone is worth wondering what our priorities are and whether the cost is too high?