Thousands of sports fans and enthusiasts were looking forward to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. But like most major events around the world, the Olympics had to be postponed from July 23, 2020 to August 8, 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. However, despite developments in vaccines, the health crisis doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Just recently, the virus has put the host country Japan into a state of emergency due to the rising number of infections.
Before the pandemic hit, Japan’s economy largely benefited from incoming tourists. ExpatBets’s guide to Japan highlights that its major cities — from Tokyo to Kyoto — were known for compelling visitors to return to its dynamic urban life and entertainment venues. Meanwhile, rural destinations like Hokkaido attracted travelers hoping to immerse themselves in adventure and nature. But, as with many other countries, the tourism industry has been badly affected by travel bans.
Despite this, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga insists on continuing the Olympics this year, claiming that it would be a sign of victory against the virus. The International Olympic Committee and other local organizers also want the games to continue. Reports show that Japan aims to admit “large-scale” numbers of overseas visitors for the Olympics to boost the tourism industry. The government even plans to develop a multilingual app that can help in checking tourists’ health. If a tourist agrees to use this app, they won’t have to undergo the 2-week quarantine. But tourists in general, whether they use it or not, will be allowed to use public transportation and will not need to be vaccinated.
While this is the initial strategy, it is still not sure whether the games will really push through, be postponed again, or cancelled altogether. Results from polls conducted in Japan by Japanese news agency Kyodo and Tokyo Broadcasting System show that 80% of Japanese feel that the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled. Sir Keith Mills, the former chief executive of the London 2012 Olympics, also states that the organizers of the games should be making plans for cancellation. Beyond concerns of rising infections in Tokyo, the whole world is still fighting the virus as well. If the games continue, the first battle will be with the many people scrambling to visit Japan. This will also be very dangerous to those participating in the Paralympics, as most of them have underlying health conditions.
Quartz’s article on the Olympics, however, shows why Japan is having a hard time simply cancelling or postponing the event. Building stadiums and other structures for the games already costs billions of dollars, but the one-year delay has cost them an additional $3 billion to $15.4 billion. Around the world, there are signs of the pandemic possibly improving and that events might be on the horizon again. As mentioned, vaccines have already been approved in different countries last December. Places with low infection rates are now considering holding in-person sporting events. Meanwhile, other locations hold sporting events in isolation zones, such as the Philippines’ PBA bubble, where all participants stay in one place for the duration of the event. This lasts from days to weeks.
The organizers have been considering these many factors and more, but the final decision about the Olympics is expected to be announced on March 25 — the day the torch relay starts from northern Japan. However, at this point of the discussion, Japanese cabinet member Taro Kono admits that it “could go either way.” Until then, the whole world will have to hold its breath.