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Sports books see surge in betting on Olympics cancellation

Welcome to Japan! You might not be staying for long, though.
Photo: Getty Images

COVID-19 forced the 2020 Olympics to be pushed back into 2021, and, now, it could push the event back even further — or kill it.

Early today, the head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, announced he was not ruling out a “last-minute cancellation” of the Olympic Games, which are supposed to begin on Friday.

This announcement sent bettors flooding to their local sports books to place money on the Olympics being cancelled. Per OddsChecker, in less than 12 hours since the announcement was made, odds for the Olympics being cancelled have fallen from +9000 (roughly a 1.1 percent chance) to +1000 (9.1 percent chance) with more than $128,000 being placed on the Olympics not taking place. The drop in payoff indicates the higher likelihood of the bet hitting, which is also why more people are betting it.

Despite the announcement, oddsmakers still believe that the Olympics will happen. Currently, the Olympics are listed at -2000 odds to continue as is. However, that optimism may not be warranted. Just one month ago, between June 14 and June 21, Japan recorded only 279 new COVID cases nationwide, bringing their national case total up to 10,457. However, between June 21 and July 12, Japan’s total case number nearly doubled to 19,742. COVID infection rates across Japan have skyrocketed in July and are only continuing to rise as we approach the start date of the opening ceremonies. From July 5 to 12, Japan saw a 48.3 percent increase in new COVID cases from the previous week — the nation’s largest such increase since January.

As of right now, only 22.5 percent of all Japanese citizens are fully vaccinated. This combination of rising cases and unvaccinated people has already led the Olympic committee to ban fans from attending the Olympic venues. Now, with less than three days until the opening ceremonies are supposed to take place, the future of the 2021 Olympics is hanging by a thread. We all know how quickly COVID-19 can spread, and as several athletes have already contracted the virus ahead of the Games, the likelihood of the 2021 Olympics going off without a hitch seems to be getting slimmer by the moment. Unless the organizing committee finds a way to limit cases before Friday, I wouldn’t mind putting a few hundred on the games being cancelled as well.

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