Enough of the pessimism – we need the Olympics now more than ever

As far as hard economics and hard health policy are concerned, the case against the games looks overwhelming. But I think it is wrong, writes Hamish McRae

Sunday 18 July 2021 21:30
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It will be the strangest of Olympics that opens on Friday. No spectators at most of the events; medals handed out on a tray instead of hung over athletes’ necks; no high fives. It will be a sombre, muted, troubled Olympics for our troubled times.

The arguments against holding it are manifest. Tokyo is under a state of emergency. According to an Ipsos opinion poll, only 22 per cent of Japanese people think it should be held at all. The support is a little higher in other countries but overall it is only 43 per cent.

All the old arguments come out. One is cost. The games are only going ahead because so much has been invested in them – an estimated $15.4bn, though now that is expected to be exceeded. Another is that the facilities may be fine for the event, but are not appropriate for long-term sports use. Rio de Janeiro is still struggling to make good use of the facilities it built for the last games five years ago.

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