Friday is supposed to be Japan’s day in the international spotlight. Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium filled with athletes from around the world, adoring fans, the maddening blitz of photos, and a billion or more people tuned in for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympic Games . A showcase of Japanese culture, a blend of tradition and modernity, of a country who pulled off the last major international sporting event – the 2019 Rugby World Cup – with flying colours. All ushering in 17 days of sporting competition, escapism at its best as the world puts aside its differences for a brief, fleeting moment. Tokyo was going to signify a new era for the world and a country crawling its way out of a long, dark economic period, all wrapped into a massive party. This is not the world we live in anymore. The calendar year of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic washing over cities, countries and continents for months on end, has given new meaning to the word “relentless”. Cancelling events at unprecedented rates, sending billions of people into lockdown, shutting down economies and wreaking havoc on what feels like every inhabitant on the planet. The chilling comment from long-time International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound that if Tokyo doesn’t go off in 2021, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing six months later are also in serious jeopardy, has also soured any celebratory tone that should have taken place Thursday in marking the one year countdown to the rescheduled Games. Could Beijing 2022 be hit by boycott over Xinjiang? Pound is the voice of reason to the IOC’s president, Thomas Bach, who seems more preoccupied with being reelected for another term than actually making sure the world is safe and the Games continue to uphold the ideals of togetherness and not the notion of playing favourites . Beijing kicking off its own countdown clock last week was met with next to nothing in terms of fanfare, or press, for entirely different reasons. China now finds itself in the middle of Cold War 2.0 , a festering economic battle with the United States which has bled into politics, a sobering staredown between the world’s two superpowers. Tokyo’s fate now surely lies in the hands of a potential vaccine and the ability to disperse it quickly enough that we can contemplate resuming our normal lives and hosting large scale events worry free. Human trials have already started, offering a glimmer of hope and a promise that even if we cannot save Tokyo, we can one day put this whole mess behind us. But what a vaccine does not solve is the looming crisis China will face in 2022. A geopolitical storm is raging on multiple fronts, a potential boycott of Beijing over its treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang now getting more attention than ever. China’s national security law, still fresh on the books here in Hong Kong, has also been widely condemned by a number of nations, including the UK, the US, Australia, Japan, Sweden and Canada . That could yet become a flashpoint, much as the city’s anti-government protests dominated the international news cycle on a daily basis last year. IOC chief says warning against boycotts unrelated to Beijing Games Maybe then, if we find ourselves facing a worst-case scenario, we hold out hope for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The next few months will be crucial for a number of reasons. A vaccine ready in late 2020 may allow us to catalogue this catastrophe as something we were able to overcome in a calendar year. But if we push into 2021 and people across the world still find themselves in lockdown, the mental impact will take on new weight. Less than a third of Japanese citizens say they are looking forward to the Games in 2021, according to a new poll by Kyodo News. If public sentiment is that low on home soil, one can only wonder where the rest of the world sits. Our next two Olympics now hang in the balance during an extraordinary time for society. Saving one, if not both, will require some good news and a groundbreaking scientific achievement, all amid a sea change in popular opinion during a year we are all ready to forget.