The Pandemic Olympics

Will the “2020” Olympics be held in Japan?

The biggest question is “will the Olympics be held in Japan on schedule?” If you recall, they were postponed from last year to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is highly unlikely that they would be postponed for another year. If they are not held this year, it is likely they will be canceled altogether.

The NY Times article quoted below is a good Q&A on the topic. The Olympic Committee wants them to go on since that is where they get their money from.

The pandemic Olympics

After a year’s delay, the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Summer Olympics will take place next month.

At least, that’s the plan.

Will the Olympics take place, or is there a chance they’ll be canceled or pushed off again?

That’s literally the question that every single person is asking. And the question I ask myself. And it’s what my wife wants to know. [Laughs.] But yeah, I’m saying yes, on July 23 we’re going to be watching an opening ceremony. The clues are all pointing in that direction. A couple of weeks ago, the International Olympic Committee declared themselves to be in what they called “operational delivery mode,” which is marketing speak but means this is going forward. And recently, an I.O.C. member said that the Olympics would be on “barring Armageddon.” It feels like for the I.O.C., and for Tokyo, there’s too much at stake for them to cancel.

Why is Japan putting on the Games when large swaths of Japanese society are against it?

It’s a complicated question, but simply put, there’s the feeling that this is too big a ship to turn around. The official budget figure for the Games is $15 billion, so a ton of money has already been poured into it. The official tally said that moving the Games last year cost $3 billion. The I.O.C., meanwhile, gets most of their income from broadcast rights, and they don’t get that money until the Games go on.

What’s the current virus situation in Japan?

Japan is currently in what they call the fourth wave of infections. Tokyo and a number of other major cities have been in a state of emergency since April, and that has been extended to June 20. It’s important to note that the percent of the population that is fully vaccinated there is still pretty minuscule, at around 3 percent. But the vaccination effort is picking up steam, and cases in the past few weeks have slowed down from their peak earlier this spring.

How are the organizers planning to keep people safe?

They barred international fans. It also looks as if there’s going to be daily testing. And everybody involved is going to be discouraged from going anywhere besides their lodgings. So that means no public transportation, no eating in restaurants, no sightseeing. They’re very much trying to enforce what they would call a bubble.

The biggest tension point has probably been that vaccinations are not mandatory for participation. But the I.O.C. has procured donations from the Chinese government and Pfizer for any athletes who are struggling to get vaccinated in their home countries.

What do the athletes say?

There are more than 10,000 athletes, so it’s hard to encompass all of their views into one position. But if I were to do that, I think they want to be there. For a lot of these people, this is kind of their one chance to be on the big stage, to get exposure, to pick up sponsorships and to raise their profile. And on a more symbolic level, they want to be able to compete at the highest level, which is what a lot of these athletes have arranged their entire lives toward doing.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.
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