The Week (US)
Tokyo Olympics: Why Japan is going ahead
Japan is still in the throes of a major Covid surge, said Clay Chandler in Fortune .com, but its leaders insist they will hold the summer Olympic Games starting July 23—“pandemic and public opinion be damned.” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) contend that bringing 15,000 athletes, officials, and media from 200-plus countries to Tokyo will be safe. But Japan has just extended a state of emergency as Covid cases soar, with barely 2 percent of the population vaccinated. Japanese business leaders, newspapers, and athletes have expressed opposition to holding the Games now, and 83 percent of Japanese polled want the event postponed another year or scrapped. But Suga faces an election this fall and wants the Olympics to lift his flagging poll numbers, while the IOC doesn’t want to lose billions in broadcast rights.
Let the Games go on, said Henry Olsen in WashingtonPost.com. “The world needs a ray of sunshine after the darkness of the past year,” and the Summer Olympics are “virtually the only event that truly unites the globe in friendship.” With other countries’ help, Japan can pull this off safely: Fans from outside Japan won’t be allowed, and athletes will be tested daily and confined to their residences and competition venues. Canceling the Olympics would be a huge blow to Japan’s economy, said Yoshiaki Nohara in Bloomberg.com. The cost of hosting has ballooned to an estimated $25 billion, and canceling would cost Japan “a direct economic loss” of about
$13 billion. That would come at a terrible time for an economy “already teetering on the brink of a double-dip recession.”
“Money is the chief reason anyone is even considering going forward with a Summer Games,” said Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post. The IOC is pressuring Japan not to “cut its losses” and cancel, despite how outrageously irresponsible it is to divert 10,000 medical workers from hospitals to staff the events. Already, eight Olympic workers tested positive for Covid during the torch-relay ceremony last month. Yes, Japan and the IOC will suffer big losses by postponing, but gathering thousands of people in a country in the midst of a Covid surge could turn out to be a superspreader event. “What might a larger disaster cost?”