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Florida Wants Tokyo's 2021 Olympics Despite Rising COVID Infections, Deaths

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/28/2021 Scott McDonald
a man standing in front of a laptop: A reporter gestures as he walks past the logos of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games after a press conference at the Tokyo 2020 headquarters in Tokyo on March 30, 2020. - The postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will open on July 23, 2021, organisers said on March 30, announcing the new date after the Games were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. © Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images A reporter gestures as he walks past the logos of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games after a press conference at the Tokyo 2020 headquarters in Tokyo on March 30, 2020. - The postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will open on July 23, 2021, organisers said on March 30, announcing the new date after the Games were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Major cities around the world make bids to host Olympic Games for a variety of reasons, and most of those are beyond just the feather in the cap for hosting them. The Games are awarded several years in advance, and the host city and its country typically have at least 5-8 years to work out the logistics.

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What logistics? There are state-of-the-art venues, infrastructure, hotel capacity, the Olympic Village for athletes, security and safety for all families, visitors and spectators. There are also minor details a host city can get a better grasp of by observing the previous Olympics before them.

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics got postponed a full year after the COVID-19 global pandemic began last year. Japanese officials have quietly indicated they may walk away from hosting those Games in 2021 if the virus isn't under control within the next four to six weeks.

Not to worry, here comes Florida to the rescue.

Jimmy Patronis, the chief financial officer for the State of Florida, wrote a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach that said Florida would be more than willing to host this summer's Olympics should Tokyo pull the proverbial plug.

Why not? Florida is a state that depends on tourism. Last spring when the pandemic began sweeping the U.S., the Sunshine State didn't lay down any statewide restrictions until spring break ended—the state left it up to individual cities and counties to make up their own guidelines.

When it looked like snowbirds from the tri-state area of New York-New Jersey-Connecticut were going to visit Florida while those states got hit early by COVID, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put a quarantine order against visitors from those states.

Now, let's fast forward not even nine months. Florida has surpassed 1.7 million positive cases, which is third in the country behind just California and Texas. The state continues to see nearly 10,000 new cases a day. The state has also recorded nearly 26,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Florida is a big state with large cities that include Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and all of their greater metropolitan areas. Then there are the Florida Keys, which is a popular tourist destination from folks all over the world.

The state has allowed high school, college and professional sports to be played before limited fans—as long as those fans practice social distancing and try to remember to wear facial coverings.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report of two high school wrestling tournaments in Florida over a two-day span that turned into a super spreader. So far, nearly 80 people have been infected and there has been one death.

Meanwhile, one of the nations's largest tourist attractions—the Disney World and Epcot Center complex in Orlando—has been open, but some of its attractions have remained closed because of the ongoing pandemic.

That brings us to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The quadrennial Games bring athletes, coaches, referees, officials and fans from all over the world. It's not just a super spreader, it's the ultimate spreader.

It's a tourism bonanza for the area. For instance, Japan and Tokyo have already spent more than $25 billion (with a B) in hopes of a much greater return on the investment. Japan is almost willing to walk away from the Games because of the pandemic, with hopes of getting them in 2032 in return.

The state of Florida could possibly pull off an Olympics, but it would likely need to push for even less capacity of fans than what it had for the College Football National Championship earlier this month in Miami or what it expects for the Super Bowl next month in Tampa.

The state might need to implement a bubble format like it had while hosting the second part of the NBA's regular season and all of its postseason last year in Orlando.

It might require extensive COVID testing and quarantining for out-of-country visitors like it did last year for out-of-state tourists.

Across the state, Florida has just about all the venues possible to host an Olympics—with exception of perhaps a great surfing spot along its expansive coasts of either the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. It has swimming facilities, track and soccer stadiums, baseball and softball venues, enough golf courses and tennis courts for an entire country, and it has has adequate spots for archery, badminton, judo, karate, shooting and, ahem, even wrestling.

Florida has pulled off the feats of hosting athletic events already during the pandemic and the most-active hurricane season on record—although Florida went relatively unscathed last season.

Maybe it can do the same with a last-minute Olympics.

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