Are the 2021 Summer Olympics in jeopardy? Officials and business leaders are debating this as a resurgence in the coronavirus affects Japan. The Wall Street Journal is reporting:
Opposition to the Tokyo Olympics opening in two months has deepened in Japan and spread to some prominent business leaders despite organizers highlighting recent warm-up events as evidence that the Games can safely go ahead.
Japan has been dealing with spikes in coronavirus cases, leading to a state of emergency. A recent report from the Kyodo News indicates:
The Japanese government plans to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo, Osaka and other areas beyond the current deadline of May 31, sources familiar with the matter said Monday, as infections have yet to significantly subside, leaving the medical system strained.
According to my sources at Wikipedia, the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021, roughly two months away. Will this provide enough time for Japan to get its recent COVID spike under control? That remains to be seen. COVID vaccinations have been slow in being accepted by the Japanese with the medical journal, The Lancet reporting in 2020 that “Japan ranked among the countries with the lowest vaccine confidence in the world” (NOTE: This is vaccines in general as opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine)
Is it any surprise that Japan has a low rate of vaccination? Consider this recent Japan Times article which revealed some disturbing numbers on vaccinations:
As of Saturday, the percentage of people who had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine stood at just 4.37% in Japan, compared with 55.57% in the United Kingdom, 48.58% in the United States, 39.68% in Germany and 34.51% in Italy, according to data compiled by University of Oxford researchers and others on the website Our World in Data.
According to the Japan Times:
At the moment, responsibility for leading Japan’s rollout efforts has largely been given to municipalities, which process vaccine doses distributed in batches by the central government. But the debut of the two mass vaccination centers underscores the central government’s willingness to play a more active role in Japan’s inoculation campaign.
As such, current projections are that Japan’s elderly population could be fully vaccinated by the end of July. However, there is no guarantee of this and the Times points out that it is still up to the nation’s municipalities to make it happen. It seems the current spike of cases with the potential for visiting athletes to cause another spike have many Japanese citizens feeling the Olympics shouldn’t happen. The Wall Street Journal
The Japanese are skeptical. Recent opinion polls show growing majorities opposed to the Games taking place. A mid-May survey by the Asahi newspaper found that 83% of people wanted the event to be canceled or postponed, up from 69% in April.
Olympic officials feel the situation is under control. The Chicago Tribune reports: IOC (International Olympic Committee) President:
Thomas Bach who has said repeatedly that everyone must “sacrifice” to pull off these Olympics, which have already banned fans from abroad. A decision on local fans attending — if any — will be made next month.
The IOC relies on selling television rights for 75% of its income, and Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion to prepare the games. Government audits suggest the figure is much higher. All but $6.7 billion is public money.
Naturally, the IOC have a huge investment in the Tokyo Olympics and a cancellation could be catastrophic for the Olympics in general. While there have been accusations of the IOC favoring profit over potential deaths, the group stresses the safety precautions that will be in place. According to The Chicago Tribune:
Organizers and the IOC say that the games will be safe because of extensive testing and building a bubble around the athletes. It says more than 80% of the residents in the Olympics Village, located on Tokyo Bay, will be vaccinated.
At this point the games are on, and with the 2021 Summer Olympics featuring new events like karate and skateboarding (as well as a few others), viewers could be in for some exciting action and some much-needed diversions from the coronapocalypse. I never get tired of watching women’s beach volleyball, but should the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many? Ultimately, is it smart for Tokyo to host the games when it’s battling a spike in COVID-19 cases? What do you think. Let us know in the comments section.