With just two months to go before the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to kick-off, opposition to holding the games at all has been building.
Japan is in the midst of its 4th wave of coronavirus infections and the medical community in Japan and internationally is insisting the games can’t be held safely and should be canceled.
In one of the strongest statements so far, the 6,000-member Tokyo Medical Practitioners’ Association called for the Olympics to be canceled in a letter sent last week to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, and Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the organizing committee.
The letter was made public this week on the group’s website.
“We believe the correct choice is to the cancel an event that has the possibility of increasing the numbers of infected people and deaths,” the letter said.
“Viruses are spread by people’s movements. Japan will hold a heavy responsibility if the Olympics and Paralympics work to worsen the pandemic, increasing the number of those who must suffer and die.”
“Our nation is now undergoing a surge in coronavirus patients in a fourth wave, the worst so far,” the letter said. “The medical systems responding to COVID-19 are stretched thin, almost to their limits. The reality is that the entire medical system faces an almost insurmountable hardship in trying our best to respond with coronavirus measures.”
Organizers of the games have already banned international visitors from attending. And a recent poll showed that 80 percent of the Japanese people oppose putting on the games in Japan. But demonstrations against holding the games have been poorly attended and the organizers believe that the people will change their minds once the games begin.
There are billions of dollars and Japan’s international prestige on the line, so the games will indeed, go ahead. But a former Olympic athlete, appearing on Japan’s public TV station with a member of the Olympic committee, crystallized the basic reason the games should be delayed or canceled.
Arimori, a former marathoner who won silver in Barcelona in 1992 and bronze in Atlanta in ’96 for Japan, took aim at the committee for not being more transparent. “The organizers have had the past year to communicate with the public. And yet public opinion hasn’t changed,” Arimori said. “They’ve kept sports officials in the loop. But they need to do more to win everyone’s understanding.”
“Stop thinking about the athletes and sports. Think about the people supporting them. Society has to come first!” That statement blew up Japanese social media and intensified the debate about holding the games.
The host country is taking extraordinary measures to protect the 15,000 athletes and uncounted others who are involved in putting on such a gigantic athletic event. Everyone will get tested who shows up to compete or officiate or observe in an official capacity.
And don’t forget about the security problems that are made worse by the pandemic. The only blessing for security teams is the lack of crowds to keep an eye on. But it won’t make their jobs any easier.
American corporations who have ponied up billions of dollars to sponsor the games are probably regretting the decision by now. Whether the games go forward or not, they may have to think twice before making a similar commitment in the future.