It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the Tokyo Olympics

Editorial: Nervousness among the Japanese population is so severe that polling shows more than 80 per cent want to see the games scrapped – the organisers should listen

Tuesday 20 July 2021 21:30
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<p>A volunteer wearing a face mask poses with volleyballs ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games</p>

A volunteer wearing a face mask poses with volleyballs ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

With only hours to go before the first events of the postponed “2020” Olympic Games, there is even now doubt about whether they will begin – or if they do, whether they will be called off before their scheduled completion. While it has taken world wars to see previous games cancelled, this pandemic will have delayed the unfortunate Tokyo games by a year, and may yet see them abandoned. The head of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee has said as much: “We will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

Quite plainly, in Japan, the situation has already arisen – though the daily case rate in the country (around 2,500) is far below, say, British levels. Nervousness among the Japanese population is so severe that polling shows more than 80 per cent want to see the games scrapped. It should be no surprise: only 11 per cent of Japanese residents have been fully vaccinated.

Toyota, a name that virtually symbolises Japanese industrial power, has pulled its advertising. The politicians in Tokyo must be eyeing their own prospects warily. There is a certain amount of humiliation (or at least the perception of it) involved in scaling back the games further, or cancelling (or postponing) them again. Against that must be weighted the political backlash at their going ahead, even without fans. Thousands of teams and support staff will be attending from all over the world, and even with quarantine in place, it is a risk many think unnecessary, despite the financial cost that would be incurred by a last-minute cancellation.

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