June 16, 2021

The Tokyo Games, between audacity and folly


A woman walks past the emblem of the Olympic Games on a Tokyo street.  /

A woman walks past the emblem of the Olympic Games on a Tokyo street. /
KIMIMASA MAYAMA / EFE

The Tokyo Olympics they will seal the global victory against the pandemic and stimulate the national economy and morale as those of 1964 did. Or they will create a macro contagion that will plunge Japan into disgrace and wither its green shoots. The only certainty, one month after the cauldron is lit, is that this edition will be remembered.

Holding a global event during a pandemic is either bold or unconscious, according to sources. Japan has been less affected by the coronavirus than other countries, just 12,500 deaths, but today it does not seem the ideal venue. The capital and nine other regions are under a state of emergency and only 5% of the population has been vaccinated. The government’s determination to persevere with its Olympic plan is moving. He has the support of athletes as the public, businessmen, economists, the press, doctors and, probably, common sense crowd in front.

Rakuten founder calls it a “suicide mission”

The latest polls reveal popular opposition to the Games ranging from 70 to 80%. His voice has been expanded by business leaders such as Hiroshi mikitani, founder of Rakuten, who has described them as “a suicide mission”. The newspaper ‘Asahi Shimbun’ was also added. It is not just any voice: it has five million readers and is an official sponsor. His editorial clarified that “he did not see the sense” of the Games and asked the Government to cancel them after “a calm and objective analysis of the situation.” “What is more important than the lives of citizens? Let’s think about it. (…) If the highly controversial Games are held without the blessing of the public, what will we have won and what will we have lost? ”He wondered.

Skepticism also comes from the hospital union. “We have strong reservations against the Games,” he summarized Susumu Morita, General Secretary of the Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions. It is worrying that athletes absorb the human resources required by the latest wave. The organizers had promised 10,000 doctors and nurses to manage the Games but the latest outbreaks in the country advised cutting them to 7,000 and it is already known that that figure will not be reached either.

The fading weather was helped last month by the recommendation of the United States, Tokyo’s main geopolitical ally, to avoid trips to Japan. It lacks practical effects because athletes will attend and Japan had already renounced the barrage of tourists, but it supported doubts about that government mantra of “safe Games”.

Nor do the numbers advise the Games. Proponents argue that last year’s suspension was already onerous and the cancellation would add another 1.8 trillion yen (about 13 billion euros) to the bill, but missing from the equation were the risks of the event causing another wave of infections Takahide kiuchi, an economist at the prestigious Nomura Research Institute and a former member of the Bank of Japan, estimates that the declaration of another State of National Emergency would quadruple the cost of cancellation.

Coe’s justification

Athletes escape from that skeptical symphony. Tennis player Naomi Osaka has called for a public debate that measures the interests of athletes and public health but there are no reports of defections of famous athletes. Tokyo will be the only Olympic event for 70% of those summoned in July, according to the accounts of Sebastian coe. Cancellation, the British myth opines, would mean “discarding a generation of athletes who have invested half of their young lives to pursue this moment.”

The table, discounting the understandable enthusiasm of the athletes, advises lowering the blind. A glance at the political calendar helps to interpret the stubbornness of the prime minister, Yoshihide suga. He will deal with the elections in his Liberal Democratic Party in September and, a month later, with the general elections. The desperate and persistent astray of the progressives ensures the victory of the conservatives even if they present a chair but Suga, with his popularity at a minimum, has his election crude in the primaries. Only a glittering success at the Games would reverse the skepticism in their ranks. For Suga and Japan, when you light the cauldron, there will be no going back: grand door or infirmary.

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