MU Professor & Olympic Researcher Weighs In On This Year’s Games 

There’s no question about it: like many events over the course of the past year and a half, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan will look different after being postponed for a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But it may also be the first time in history that the games go on during a pandemic.  

Certainly, it’s not the first time that there have been public health issues during the Olympics. In more recent history, the Zika virus made headlines and caused panic across the globe during the Rio Olympics in 2016. Several atheltes withdrew from the games, citing concerns about the aforementioned virus.  

But the scale of this global health crisis, paired with the recent announcement that this year’s games will be spectator-free due to a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in Japan, makes it a historic event. Whether the lack of spectators will hinder or help the athletes remains to be seen. Dr. Ying Wushanley, a professor of wellness and sports sciences at Millersville University who has conducted substantial research on the Olympics, suspects it will have some type of impact on their performance. “It will certainly have an impact on the athletes, though whether it will be necessarily negative or positive is hard to say. Every athlete is different, psychologically speaking,” he states. 

 In the lead up to this year’s games, there has been discussion around whether the games should be cancelled or relocated because of COVID-19. The decision about where the Olympics will be held is decided years in advance, shares Wushanely.  The process involves an extensive bidding, vetting, and voting process by the International Olympic Committee 

Above: Dr. Ying Wushanley

“It’s impractical and nearly impossible at this point,” Wushanely explains. “They are locked into exclusive, multi-billion-dollar broadcasting contracts that were signed nearly a decade ago, to say nothing of the money Tokyo poured into creating an infrastructure from the ground up that could host the games and accommodate the influx of tourists and athletes.” Hosting the Olympics is a costly investment that takes years of planning and preparation, he notes. “It’s not something that can be easily backed out of, and it would be a huge loss to the athletes who’ve trained so hard.”  

Wushanely also notes that this year’s games are historic in yet another way: “These are the first ever gender-balanced Olympic games in history.” Wushanley also researches gender equality in sports. “Nearly 49% of participants in the games this year will be women,” he continues. “If the Olympic Games can demonstrate the importance of gender equality to billions of viewers on television, albeit only symbolically in numbers, it sends a strong message to all sports organizations around world that male-dominance in sport should no longer be the norm.”  

Tune into the 2020 Olympics by streaming the games on Peacock or watching on NBC.  

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