Japan Keen to Hold Olympics Despite Virus Dangers

In a showdown over public safety, the organizers are facing a remarkable groundswell of criticism and pushback from their own athletes, fans, and national Olympic officials. (Image:  YouTube/Screenshot)
In a showdown over public safety, the organizers are facing a remarkable groundswell of criticism and pushback from their own athletes, fans, and national Olympic officials. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot)

The CCP coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of several sporting events. The biggest sporting spectacle of the year is undoubtedly the 2020 Tokyo Olympics scheduled to be held in July. Despite some people calling for postponing the event, the Japanese government has unequivocally stated that it wants the Olympics to be held as scheduled.

“With the star athletes in the middle of preparations for this event which happens only once every four years, cancellation or delay to the Tokyo games is inconceivable… A delay is not under consideration,” Olympics minister Hashimoto Seiko said in a parliamentary committee (Bloomberg).

Yet now, in a showdown over public safety, the organizers are facing a remarkable groundswell of criticism and pushback from their own athletes, fans, and national Olympic officials, who are increasingly and unusually vocal in calling for a postponement.

Japan has reported 1,784 cases of coronavirus infection, including 712 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. As of press time, 44 people in total have died from the virus. The government has promised a financial package to help the country deal with the issue.

By the end of last year, Japan had spent close to 1.35 trillion yen (US$12.35 billion) to build the infrastructure and prepare other arrangements necessary for the games. The Japanese organizing committee is contributing 603 billion yen of the total cost. The city of Tokyo is chipping in with 597 billion yen, while the central government has provided 150 billion yen. The final cost will be higher.

Japanese businesses have poured in 384 billion yen through sponsorships and other channels. Given such investments, postponing or canceling the Olympics will be a financial catastrophe for Japan.

Japanese businesses have poured in 384 billion yen through sponsorships and other channels. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot)

Japanese businesses have poured in 384 billion yen through sponsorships and other channels. (Image: YouTube / Screenshot)

In a recent report by SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., canceling the Tokyo Olympics will cut Japan’s GDP growth by 1.4 percent, sapping around 7.8 trillion yen from the economy. Corporate revenues would tumble by about 24.4 percent compared to the previous year.

There is also a lot of prestige riding on the event. Tokyo had held the 1964 Olympics. The 2020 games are an opportunity for Japan to show its sophisticated technological society. In 2016, the Olympics went ahead as planned in Rio de Janeiro despite the fact that Brazil was in the midst of the Zika virus outbreak. The Japanese government is hoping that something similar will happen.  

“Yes, it’s about the money that has already been spent on facilities and new infrastructure and the windfall from tens of thousands of foreign tourists, but I think it’s much more about the national political pride of ‘Team Abe,’” Hama Noriko, an economist at Doshisha University in Kyoto, said to Inkstone News. “Team Abe” refers to Abe Shinzo, Japan’s prime minister.

The 2020 games are an opportunity for Japan to show its sophisticated technological society. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot)

The 2020 games are an opportunity for Japan to show its sophisticated technological society. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot)

“They wanted to show the world that they could do this, that they would be one of the very few cities to host an Olympics for a second time and that it would be a massive success… It’s about chest-thumping,”

Japan recently approved the draft version of the “state of emergency” measures. The bill is basically a modified version of a 2012 law that was introduced to arrest the spread of new flu strains. The cabinet is expected to pass the bill without any opposition. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remarked that even though Japan is not yet experiencing a coronavirus epidemic, it is important to prepare for the worst case.

“Under the new law, once the prime minister declares a state of emergency in a specific part of the country, local governments can require residents to stay indoors, close schools and limit the use of facilities in which large numbers of people gather. Land and buildings could be requisitioned as makeshift hospitals,” according to The Star.

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