Will EURO 2020 and Tokyo Olympics go ahead? Should they?

March 09, 2020 11:05
Football fans watch an FA Cup match at Pride Park, Derby, Britain on March 5. That none of these fans are wearing face masks shows that most Europeans still take the risk posed by the coronavirus outbreak lightly, says the author. Photo: Reuters

I got really worried while watching on television a live broadcast of the last-16 match of the FA Cup, or the Football Association Challenge Cup, last week.

That's because I saw 62,000 football fans cheering for their teams, but none of them were wearing face masks.

It shows that most Europeans still seem to take the risk posed by the coronavirus outbreak rather lightly.

While China appears to have effectively contained the spread of Covid-19 through stringent quarantine measures, the virus is rapidly spreading globally.

South Korea, Italy and Iran each reported several thousand confirmed cases.  The United States and several European nations also saw more people infected.

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said the United Kingdom's response to the coronavirus will now focus on delaying its spread, with the number of cases set to go up.

This cast doubts on whether UEFA EURO 2020 scheduled for June and the Tokyo Olympic Games in July would be able to proceed as planned.

If the virus cannot be brought under full control, there could be considerable risks if these major sports events go ahead.

UEFA EURO 2020 is scheduled to start on June 12. UEFA EURO is the world’s third-largest sporting event in terms of the number of audiences, trailing behind the Olympics and FIFA. The last tournament attracted over 2.4 million people to France and over 2 billion TV viewers across the world in 2016.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of UEFA EURO. And it’s the first time in the tournament's history that the European Championships will be held across the continent, with 12 cities hosting matches throughout four weeks.

The 12 cities, including London, Rome and Munich, will host matches together for four weeks, significantly boosting the risk of spreading Covid-19 across Europe.

The same dire prospects hold for Tokyo Olympics.

Some have suggested that Japan hold the Olympics in a different way, such as by accepting only a small number of VIPs into the sports venues while most people can watch the live games on TV.

Although that could mean a tremendous loss in terms of tourism revenue, Tokyo can still generate income from selling broadcasting rights and sponsorships. In fact, such income typically amounts to about 80 percent of total Olympics revenues.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 6

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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This year marks the 60th anniversary of UEFA EURO. It’s the first time in the tournament's history that the championships will be held across the continent, with 12 cities hosting matches throughout four weeks. Photo: Facebook

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist