Controversy Over the Tokyo Olympics

  • February 25, 2021
As the date of the Tokyo Olympics approaches, many Japanese civilians are questioning the safety of the game’s proceedings and whether or not they should continue with the plans.

After the pandemic canceled all in-person events to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among the masses, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was pushed back to July of 2021. However, as the big date is arriving soon and preparations are now starting, including the ceremonial torch lighting, many people are calling for the cancellation of the summer Olympics entirely. In a poll conducted in early February, it is reported that 61% of the Japanese population wants either the cancellation or another postponement of the Olympics, 28% wanting no spectators, and 8% in favor of allowing spectators

Although the poll number has drastically dropped by 20% in favor of canceling the event, overall Japanese sentiment is still in opposition of the games being held, especially with their current situation in dealing with the coronavirus. Tokyo has been facing health and economic crises due to its sharp rise in the number of infections, which led to a nationwide state of emergency declared in early January originally lasting till February 7th. However, with hospitals still overwhelmed and the Japanese health system crashing, the state of emergency was extended for another month in Tokyo and a multitude of other prefectures. Amid all this, the new Prime Minister Suga has faced approval ratings sinking to the low 30s due to his poor response in handling the pandemic.

Even though Japan has over 420,000 cases while vaccines still have not been distributed to the general public amidst new mutant variants spreading, the International Olympic Committee (hereafter known as IOC) and the Japanese government still contend the games will proceed normally. This will include the arrival of around 11,000 athletes, 4,000 Paralympians, and additional thousands comprised of staff, officials, coaches, and media from around the world in Tokyo.

While the IOC has acknowledged the health concerns over the event and assured that athletes will be routinely tested and quarantined, it is hard to say that that would be enough to prevent the further spread of a disease in an already vulnerable city. It is also to be noted that athletes will not be required to receive vaccinations before competing as it would take away current queue priorities from high-risk individuals such as front-line health care employees, essential workers, and the elderly. 

As seen in the American sports leagues, it is incredibly difficult to uphold strict health guidelines as players, staff, and coaches continue to be infected. In the NFL alone, around 700 people tested positive for Covid-19. Now, with thousands of people worldwide coming to one city, possibly carrying new variants that do not have any current vaccines, the most responsible action of the IOC and the Japanese government would be to either cancel the event entirely or once again delay the games until the world finally eliminates the deadly threat of the virus.

Even though the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics would cause the IOC to lose revenues from advertisements and video distributions, what is best for the world right now is to stop international travel and maintain quarantine guidelines at home to prevent a potentially devastating outcome. However, as of yet, the Olympics will proceed to begin on July 23, 2021.

Information comes from CNN, Reuters, Japan Times, and ESPN

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