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50 Days to Tokyo: Peacock’s Olympic Dreams in Trouble

Derek Walborn

If Peacock is running toward the Olympic finish line, the hurdle presented by COVID-19 could be too high to jump.

We are currently 50 days from the start of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, and anxiety continues to intensify as 10,000 Tokyo Olympic volunteers have reportedly quit, undoubtedly over concerns about Japan’s current battle with a wave of COVID-19 infections. (That’s more than 12% of the volunteers who have walked away.)

The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled to begin in the summer of last year, giving NBC’s new streaming service a dependable boost in viewership to coincide with its launch. However, as with almost everything planned for 2020, accommodations were made to postpone the games until July 23, 2021. The turn of events left Peacock with almost no compelling content at its launch, and very little on the horizon to fill the vacuum aside from the debut of “The Office” on the platform.

Upon news of the postponement, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president John Coates optimistically proclaimed that the rescheduled Summer Olympics were to be “the Games that conquered Covid, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Japan’s inability to control its COVID-19 outbreak has been steadily dimming that light as opinion favors cancellation.

The country is in a tough spot. Polls suggest that 60-80% of Japanese citizens wish to postpone or outright cancel the games in light of the continuing pandemic, fearing that the additional travel and media associated with the event will exacerbate their current situation. Tokyo’s state of emergency has been extended multiple times, and only 2.4% of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated.

The city of Tokyo may not even have a say in whether the games proceed. The city’s contract states that only the IOC has the authority to cancel the games. If the IOC does opt to cancel the games at the country’s request, it’s possible that Japan could be on the hook for financial damages.

Athletes also face a tough choice as they are being forced to sign a waiver regarding COVID-19.

“I agree that I participate in the Games at my own risk and own responsibility, including any impact on my participation to and/or performance in the Games, serious bodily injury or even death raised by the potential exposure to health hazards such the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious disease or extreme heat conditions while attending the Games,” the waiver, which was obtained by the Associated Press, reads.

NBC, in spite of their concern over the fate of the games, has been diligent in continuing to hype their coverage of the event. They have created a new channel within Peacock called “Tokyo NOW,” set to debut alongside the games and provide daily live Olympics coverage.

Additionally, a forward-thinking partnership with Twitch is planned to provide coverage and insight geared towards a younger demographic.

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