Jigsaw puzzles have enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent weeks as people look to pass the time during lockdown periods.
Numerous sporting stars have taken to social media to show their prowess at putting together puzzles, with some opting for more complex designs with thousands of pieces to put into place.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach joined the promotion of jigsaw puzzles earlier this week, having finally reached agreement with Japanese organisers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“This is like a huge jigsaw puzzle and every piece has to fit, if you take out one piece, the whole puzzle is destroyed,” Bach said after the postponement.
“Therefore, everything has to come together and everything is important.
“This is why I really do not envy the members of this task force. I have seen proof of their professionalism and the dedication of the Organising Committee, which made Tokyo the best-prepared Olympic city ever.
“I'm really confident that we can master this challenge. The Games have never been postponed before.
“We have no blueprint, but we are nevertheless confident that we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and have a wonderful Olympic Games.”
Bach’s assessment is an accurate one, with some of the challenges involved in postponing the Games explored in my blog last week.
Tokyo have essentially seen a nearly completed puzzle tipped over, before being told to rebuild without the box for a guide and in a tight time limit. Sections of their previous work will remain relevant, but there are a lot of complications to work through.
One of the key steps could be concluded in the coming hours, with July 23 to August 8 2021 expected to be confirmed as the dates of the rescheduled Games. International Federations have, so far, indicated they will be as flexible as possible with the dates of their events to help Tokyo 2020 and the IOC.
Tougher challenges are expected to come, with venues, hotels and costs posing obstacles.
When discussing the challenges, Bach described the Olympic Games as “maybe the most complex event on this planet”.
He may well be right, but the statement simply invites people to question whether the Games are in fact too complex and too large?
The total of 33 sports and 11,000 athletes has appeared large for a long time, but I bet it feels a whole lot larger now that organisers must ensure the venues and accommodation are in place for a Games next year.
Hindsight is wonderful thing, but I do wonder whether Tokyo 2020 are now regretting the move to add five new sports to the programme for the Games, plus several new disciplines.
Tokyo 2020 were, rightly so, viewed as an Organising Committee that would be able to cope with the expanded programme of events. The Organising Committee would also be right near the top of the IOC’s list if they were forced to choose one to have to reschedule a Games.
There will be issues that arise along the path to 2021, but Tokyo 2020 should ultimately be an excellent Games when it happens.
When the dust settles, there will surely be consequences for the Olympic Games as a whole. If your plan B is this complicated, maybe there is a problem with your plan A.
With Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese Government likely to have to dip into their pockets again over the costs of postponement, will other potential hosts become even warier over the risks of staging the mega events in their current form?
The IOC have tinkered with the hosting model in recent years, when responding to their own crisis as host cities have turned away from bidding for the Games. A greater focus has been placed on spreading the Games over a region rather than placing the entire burden on a single host city, which Milan Cortina will no doubt be viewed as the poster child.
The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis that no-one saw coming, which will shake numerous industries.
Could it also be a crisis that forces the IOC to have to reassess how viable the Olympic Games are in their current form and whether the burden on a host needs to be eased further.
An obvious place to start would be the sport programme.
While the current programme guarantees weeks of unprecedented worldwide coverage for the Olympic sports, several of which are niche, it feels rather bloated. The programme would be the obvious place to start making cuts to ease the burden on the host city, both in terms of the number of venues required and the athletes they need to house.
Politically, removing sports would be an unpopular move for the IOC to attempt, as shown by pressure to when wrestling was dropped from the 2020 Olympics back in 2013, only to be reinstated later that year after a united campaign.
After all, International Federations are among the group that the IOC calls its stakeholders.
The safe option would be for the IOC to keep the programme as it is, with the sports for Paris 2024 having been waved through without debate a couple of years ago.
While a letter from World Athletics President Sebastian Coe to the “athletics community” was written to address the possible impact and opportunities the crisis may have for his own sport, I wonder whether a similar message could be applied for Olympic Games.
“In sport we have a unique opportunity not to tip toe around things and tweak at the edges,” Coe wrote. “We have the chance to think bigger, to rip up the blueprints and banish the ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ mentality.
“The situation the world finds itself in today is a huge wake up call for all of us – as human beings, as businesses and as sport.
“We should capitalise on this and work out new ways of delivering events, create and plan new events that embrace the many as well as the few.”
The IOC has often been an organisation which is reluctant to change and one that tends to respond when its hand is forced.
When the major obstacle of holding Tokyo 2020 is completed, could the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic force the IOC to have another, potentially more drastic, rethink about how the Olympic Games are delivered and potentially redraw the sport programme.