The Olympics rings are overlooking Tokyo Bay once again. Countdown clocks were long reset to tell passersby that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are just a few months away. However, Japan’s Olympic dream is turning sour once again because of the coronavirus pandemic, the worst health crisis facing the world in a century.
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Tokyo 2020 was the first Olympic Games to be postponed in the 125-year history of the Olympics. After a year of this happening, politicians and officials currently face opposition from the Japanese public. There’s also skepticism among volunteers, sponsors, and athletes.
The current official stance is that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will open on July 23, 2021, as planned. Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said, “We are not speculating whether the Games will take place. We are working on how the Games will take place.”
The Olympics are back to facing the predicament they did last spring when the pandemic pushed the organizers to accept that the Tokyo Games would have to be delayed by a year. Shinzo Abe, the then Prime Minister of Japan, had said the rescheduled event would be a celebration of humankind’s victory over the novel coronavirus.
Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s successor, has also repeated the same mantra, but it’s ringing hollow as the Japanese population is firmly opposed to the Games. A recent survey by news agency Kyodo concluded that 80% of the respondents think Tokyo 2020 should be either postponed or canceled altogether.
The human cost of COVID-19 and the financial stakes for the Tokyo 2020 organizers and the IOC are both higher than they were at the same time last year. Olympic officials see vaccination as a potential savior. However, both Japanese officials and Bach clarified that vaccination is not a condition to compete in Tokyo 2020.
Olympic organizers are convinced they’re capable of controlling the movements of 15,400 Paralympic and Olympic athletes and monitoring their health in a “sanitary bubble” in Tokyo. However, spectators pose a bigger problem. The IOC and organizers have suggested ideas ranging from allowing full stadiums to reducing venue capacities by half and banning spectators.