When the Tokyo Olympics were postponed for a year, the widespread presumption in the halls of power of the International Olympic Committee was that they would eventually move on at a time when the world was no longer in the grip of a global pandemic. Covid would be contained. Vaccine launches would be completed. If it’s not completely free of its latest viral scourge, the world would at least firmly handle it. The Games would mark a kind of celebration; the first truly global jamboree to be held in the post-pandemic era.
With less than a week to go until the opening ceremony, it now seems clearer than ever that the IOC’s optimism that originally seemed out of place was ridiculously out of place. With 11,000 athletes and another seven or eight times that number of coaches, support staff and media workers converging in Japan, it is becoming increasingly obvious that hosting this wide-spread event is a terrible idea. Even before a flame is lit, a starting shot is fired or a medal is presented, a foreign visitor has registered the first positive test for Covid-19 in the Olympic village.
The people of Japan don’t want these Games. They are terrified of the horrors that these Games can cause in their country. And yet they are forced to receive them against their will by an IOC to whom their leaders have been contractually indebted since long before the first virus case was reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. it would be financially catastrophic, so the Games will go ahead with other potentially devastating human costs that cannot be priced monetarily.
In May, medical experts announced that the daily infection rate in Tokyo would have to drop below 100 for the city to safely hold the Olympics. 1,300 new cases were reported last Thursday, the most since January. Among those who tested positive were an unidentified athlete, five Olympic employees and eight staff members at a hotel that houses members of the Brazilian team.
Faced with these statistics, the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, affirmed with optimism that “the risk for the other residents of the Olympic village and the risk for the Japanese is zero.”
With the thick end of up to a million visitors, many of whom have not received any vaccinations against the virus, converging on Tokyo from all over the world, Bach’s confidence seems quite misguided and is based on nothing more scientific than a wing. and an Olympic prayer. As an American high school principal, it’s not hard to imagine him insisting that sports day go ahead despite the presence of teenage shooters roaming the campus.
Nearly a third of Japan’s 126.3 million people are 65 or older, and not all have yet been vaccinated against the virus. Just under two months ago, four percent of the population had received both blows, although now the figure is closer to 20%.
According to The Lancet, Japan’s slow launch is due to strict regulatory approval of the vaccines, delays in their importation, and a shortage of qualified medical personnel to administer them in a country where only doctors and nurses can administer the injections.
The result? Vast swaths of the Japanese population remain unvaccinated, many of whom will be tasked with providing hospitality for the deluge of foreign delegations that will need to be fed, watered and driven in the coming weeks.
Even those who have been vaccinated can be exposed to risks: since the night of England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, four of my friends tested positive for Covid-19, and all but one had been vaccinated. . While there is no guarantee that football was a factor in their infection, one attended the match at Wembley while the other three watched it together in the same crowded pub.
With Tokyo in a state of emergency and local and foreign fans banned from attending almost all events, packed stadiums and crowded watering holes are unlikely to be a factor in these Games, which will be organized solely for the benefit of their organizers, the Japanese economy. , participating athletes and a television audience are unlikely to be particularly excited to see the medals being contested with the eerie sound of no hand clapping. A penny for the thought of those long jumpers, pole vaulters, and high jumpers who often solicit the rhythmic assistance of those in the stands before special jumps.
“To achieve the understanding of our people, and also for the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games, it is absolutely necessary that all participants take appropriate actions and measures, including countermeasures against the pandemic,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. , during a meeting with Bach last week.
Awarded the Games in 2013 as a show of confidence in having recovered from the March 2011 triple blow of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Tokyo must wait and hope that the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame at Friday’s opening ceremony will not do it too. Turn on touch paper for more tragedy and devastation.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism