Thinley Namgay 

The nation rejoiced when a 29-year-old female archer, Karma, became the first Bhutanese athlete to qualify for an Olympic quota.

She booked the spot in the recurve women’s archery at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics during the Asian continental qualification tournament held at Bangkok in November last year.

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and the Paralympic games scheduled on July 24 until next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision came after IOC President Thomas Bach and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan met on March 24.

Karma said that it was a good decision. “The athletes still have the opportunity to participate next year. It will not make any difference. I discontinued my practise at the archery range in Langjophakha due to the coronavirus. Now I practise at home.”

Despite qualifying for the quota, she still has to hit the minimum qualifying score (MQS) of 605 points. Her upcoming qualifying championships in Bangladesh and Thailand were also cancelled.

The joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee stated that owing to the present circumstances, the two leaders have agreed that the Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021 to safeguard the health of the athletes and those who are involved in the event.

BOC’s Secretary-General, Sonam Karma Tshering said that Bhutan supports IOC’s decision for postponing the Olympics games. “It was in the best interest of the athletes.”

He said that Karma has qualified for the quota, but she should maintain an MQS of 605 points. “She has not fulfilled the MQS as of now.”

Bhutan’s debut in the Olympic Games dates back to the Los Angeles Olympics in the United States of America in 1984.

Sonam Karma Tshering said that participating in the Olympic Games is not only about winning and losing. “It represents our country as a sovereign nation. Moreover, it is also a source of inspiration for our youth.”

He said that Paralympic Games are also progressing in the country under the Bhutan Paralympic Committee since its inception in 2017.

Pema Rigsel and Kinley Dem became the first para-athletes to represent the country in 2018 at the third Para Asian Games in Indonesia.

Bhutan has been a member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) since 2017.

“The understanding between the IOC and IPC was that whichever host city conducts the Olympic Games, the same city will also organise Paralympic games. Due to the resource constraints, IPC always collaborates with IOC to conduct the event. It is obvious that IPC has to accept IOC’s decision,” said Sonam Karma Tshering.

Olympics have never been delayed in the last 124 years due to such pandemic. Although the IOC cancelled the Olympics in 1916, 1940, and 1944, it was due to world wars.

The postponement of Tokyo 2020 is expected to have economic implications on Japan.

The total cost of the Tokyo Olympics, according to some reports, has been put at almost £10 billion and there were projections that it would cause Japan’s GDP to shrink by 1.5 percent. Millions of hotel bookings will have to be rearranged.

It was also agreed that the games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The re-naming as Tokyo 2021 would incur additional expenditure as most of the medals, banners, logo, and other requirements were almost complete.

The first Olympic Games were held in 1896 at Athens, Greece from April 6 to 15. Bhutan became a member of the IOC in 1983.