The predictable postponement of the 22nd Summer Olympic Games – following on from the rescheduling of the pan-continental Euro 2020 finals – is a sure sign that SARS-CoV-2, something barely in the global public consciousness a matter of weeks ago, has already made a sensational impression on how the world perceives itself. It has had the effect of making the unthinkable – the shuttering of airports, panic buying in times of undisrupted supply chains, and the general abrogation of normal life as we know it – all-too-real.
The cancellation of practically everything of note, however, has some serious implications which do not appear to have been addressed in the media coverage of the pandemic to date; as ever, it seems up to this blog to at least point them out:
- Collective psychology. Placing vital markers of time such as soccer and Olympic tournaments in the deep freeze is some move given that these sporting festivals have only previously been pulled from the schedules for one reason: the Second World War. Even as recently as the early 1990s, the insanely bloody disintegration of one of the participating countries (Yugoslavia) and the ending of another (USSR) did not engender the collapse of Euro 92. The enormous levels of uncertainty and angst these administrative decisions will trigger is likely to have economic spillover effects far beyond the initial €2.14bn/US$2.17bn tab to be picked up by the organisers.
- Weimar, 2.0. Talking of economic spillover effects, kicking event after event into the long grass risks creating a structure in which only a truly dysfunctional economy can take shape. It does not take a genius to see that in an economic shutdown scenario, millions of people who count themselves as middle class may experience serious fiscal pressures because of lost earnings; savings will haemorrhage, while serious social instability and possible currency devaluations seem almost inevitable. The wave of human suffering this could unleash risks making the coronavirus crisis – as urgent as it indubitably is, and which merited decisive (and ignored) preventative measures – appear to be, by comparison, nothing more than a blip.