What should be done about the Tokyo Olympics?

Though several vaccines for the coronavirus have been approved and are already being distributed in some countries, we still have a long way to go until everyone will have access to it. Experts say it could be months before the vaccines are widely available, and that infection rates won’t lower until the end of 2021. So what does that mean for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were rescheduled for July of next year?

Japanese public broadcaster NHK decided to ask Japanese citizens what they think. They randomly selected 2,164 adults over 18 from across the country to participate in a phone survey, which was conducted between December 11 and 14 and asked whether the Olympics should be cancelled, postponed, or held as scheduled. Only 58 percent provided answers, but the responses from those 1,249 people were pretty evenly divided.

Most responded that the Olympics shouldn’t happen next July, however, and only 27 percent said they should be held as scheduled. This is in contrast to October, when 40 percent of respondents to the same question said that the Olympics should still be held in July. This time around, more people, 32 percent, believed that they should be cancelled, and another 31 percent said that the games should be postponed to sometime later than July 2021.

In October, only 23 percent of people said the Games should be cancelled and 25 percent said that they should be postponed, so it may be that people are gradually becoming more and more unsure if it will be safe for the athletes to travel and gather by July. Regardless, it appears that Japanese citizens are fairly divided on what to do about the Olympics in light of the continuing pandemic. Japanese netizens weighed in on the debate, too, but their answers were similarly mixed:

“Is there any reason to force it to happen?”
“Considering the current coronavirus infection numbers, holding it would be impossible.”
“If they can clearly outline a plan to combat the spread, then I’d love for it to happen. But if it’s the same state of spread then as now, then I’d be very concerned.”
“Is there anyone who wants to hold it besides the mass media and the people who have vested interests?”

“I wonder if the people who think it should be cancelled have thought about the hard work and dreams the athletes have invested in the Olympics?”
“How effective will the vaccines be? We’d have to inoculate all of the athletes and the staff, at least.”
“I think if we’re gonna cancel it we have to be prepared to not have Olympic Games for about a decade…Basically if it’s impossible for Japan, it’d be impossible for France or any other country.”
“I was looking forward to the Olympics, but I don’t think it’s a simple problem to solve. I also don’t really want that many people coming to Japan. I think it should be postponed or cancelled.”

Just like the last comment said, the situation is not as simple as just deciding to cancel the Games or keep them. A lot of factors will contribute to the decision. Among other factors, cancelling the Olympics entirely means a loss of the tremendous funds that the government and many businesses have sunk into preparations, and it will be a huge disappointment to the athletes who have worked hard to make it. For some of them, this might be their last chance to compete, which would make the cancellation devastating.

Holding the Olympics in spite of the pandemic means that everyone who participates will risk exposure to the disease–or that only wealthy countries that have had access to the vaccines will be safe. Possibly, lack of access to the vaccines will even limit some countries’ ability to participate. In addition, measures to combat the spread of the disease will cost billions of yen, officials believe, and with ticket sales likely to be low or nonexistent, the return on investments is likely to be very low.

▼ The discussion likely has officials looking like this at their meetings.

Postponing the games might seem like the most ideal option, but that might mean that two Olympic games would in the same year, as the Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in Beijing in February 2022. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what does that mean for the Olympic schedule? Will the next summer Olympics be held in 2026 instead of the originally planned 2024, or will there be two Olympics in two years?

There are a lot of logistics that will go into each of the options, so it’s certainly not a decision to be made lightly. An executive of the International Olympic Committee has said that the Olympics will be held in July regardless of the status of the pandemic, but whether that’s a sentiment shared by all the Olympic officials, or even whether that’s actually able to be put into practice, is another story. Regardless, the time is probably approaching when it will be necessary to make that decision–and until then, the world will be waiting with baited breath.

Source: NHK News via Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@nhk_news
Top image: Wikipedia/17jiangz1 (edited by SoraNews24)
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

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