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  • Writer's pictureFranky Wong

3-min read: How will sports affect the transmission rate of COVID-19? How about the Olympics?

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

WHO has declared the COVID-19 a global pandemic on 12 March 2020. This outbreak has caused 16,558 deaths as of 24 March 2020. With just 122 days countdown to Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games and the disappointing news of high audience rate sports such as NBA, EPL and La Liga suspended, it would make sense to get an understanding on how the spread of COVID-19 will affect sports (to be more precise, sports events with huge fans) and potentially the arrangement of the Olympics.

Since the virus is so new, its impact on society is not well studied yet. But a few days ago, I happened to come across on Medium a data driven analysis, of the contributing factors of different social distancing methods to the slowing down of the transmission rate, that is by far the most objective analysis I have read. By the time I am writing this blog, some governments have enacted the closure of groceries shops, schools, urgent services and even bars and restaurants to avoid community outbreak. Different ways of social distancing have a different factor in the decrease of transmission rate. If we can keep the transmission rate “R” equal to or below 1, then the epidemic will slow down. You can see “Sports Closure” is contributing 0.07 to the R and there are other social distancing practices on the table. 

How about the Olympics, the one-of-a-kind sports happening that so many of us are anticipating? When it comes to a mega sports event of such scale, the venues would be packed with audiences and people queuing up for food, drinks and souvenirs. The influx of travellers means there’d be high hotel occupancy and their patronage at various sightseeing places and F&B outlets (which is the main income for the hosting country). Not to mention, the demand on the medical and custom staff at the border for temperature check and quarantine arrangement would be unprecedentedly high. Worse still, it would be nearly impossible to track down people who may have been exposed to the virus because their social interaction within that 17-day event would be like the most complicated intertwining mesh. In case of any epidemic outbreak during the Olympics, whether Japan can cater for the high demand of hospital beds, clinic/medic staff and medical resources would be a big question mark. This outbreak may also trigger the second or third wave infections in the local community in Japan and the aftermath is unpredictable. And we haven’t yet touched the risk factors of overseas national athletes and their team staff!

Sports is fascinating. Sports improves our wellbeing and can unite people. Sports also teaches us respecting each other and taking care of each other. If there is anything that could do to help to lower the R, we should do it.


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