Greg Rutherford says an Olympics staged behind closed doors would “lose its edge” and be nothing like as special.
Tokyo 2020 boss Toshiro Muto admits there is talk of hosting the rescheduled Games without fans and Olympic chief Thomas Bach has not ruled it out.
Rutherford has sympathy for the organisers and the challenge they face in bringing athletes from 205 countries together safely during a global pandemic.
But whilst conceding that a ‘lock-in’ event would be better than cancellation, the London 2012 long jump champion admitted: “I just can’t envisage an Olympics without a crowd”.
Rutherford said: “I feel you have to have someone watching for it to feel like an Olympic Games. It would definitely lose its edge without anyone present. It wouldn’t feel as big and important.
“It would not even be like the Bundesliga football we saw last weekend where there were still multiple people around the pitch. You would have an eight-lane track with eight athletes and no-one else around. It would be bizarre.”
Rutherford will relive the London Olympics over the coming days as part of Eurosport’s eight-day celebration of the 2012 Games. It will serve as a reminder to him of how epic sport’s greatest show can be.
“London is by far the greatest modern Olympics,” he said. “Lord Coe and his team absolutely nailed it.
“I still pinch myself that I was a part of that amazing night in that amazing stadium in front of those amazing fans on Super Saturday. The Olympics in London was as perfect as it could be.
“Contrast that with Rio four years ago which was not great for athletics. The top tier of the stadium wasn’t open and the crowds were sparse. It felt more like a Diamond League than an Olympics.
“So if Tokyo has to be cancelled or staged behind closed doors the last really good Olympics will have been London.”
Rutherford is forever thankful that he was able to produce his best on the one day in his life it was needed. He fears the Tokyo postponement will rob others of that same opportunity.
“There are athletes like Dina Asher-Smith who watched London and saw this summer as their opportunity to emulate Jess Ennis-Hill or whoever,” he said.
“Some of them will have lost that chance with the year-long delay. They either won’t have the form in a year’s time or the fitness.
“Had 2012 been put back a year I know I wouldn’t have become Olympic champion as I was injured the following summer.”
For all the uncertainty, Rutherford sees a positive parallel between 2012 and this year in how the nation has been united by a collective pride.
“It’s funny isn’t it,” he said. “It takes a home Olympic Games or a pandemic for people to stop, take note of things around them and actually start engaging again.
“There is undoubtedly a level of coming together which is similar to what we all experienced in 2012.”
Watch Return to London 2012 on Eurosport 2 and Eurosport Player at 2pm, every day this week.