Japan’s leaders said yesterday that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will push through this year, with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, 2021. This, despite rising COVID-19 infections, an expanded state of emergency, and a new survey showing 80% of Japanese oppose the games this year.
Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba have been put in a state of emergency for a month with Tokyo recording 1,000-plus daily new cases for six straight days.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reportedly said the games were “definitely” on during a phone call with Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates. In a public address at the start of the year, the prime minister vowed to hold a “safe and secure” Olympics.
The games were originally postponed in March 2020 due to the pandemic by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who resigned six months later due to health reasons.
Tokyo Olympics president Yoshiro Mori told his 3,500 staff members in an online New Year address, “With your support, we'll emerge from this tunnel of darkness” and that he would do his best, “to the very end, to bring many people joy and hope."
A survey on Jan. 10, however, revealed that about 80 percent of Japanese want the Olympics and Paralympics postponed or cancelled. Kyodo News conducted a telephone poll and found that 35.3% of those surveyed wanted the cancelation of the games and 44.8% wanted them postponed.
On Dec. 15, a survey by broadcast company NHK showed that 32% of respondents wanted the games to be cancelled completely, only 27% wanted them to go ahead this year, and 31% wanted another delay.
According to Olympic.org, the Olympic Torch Relay will start on March 25, 2021 from Fukushima Prefecture and then traverse all 47 prefectures across Japan over the next 121 days.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and “the Torch Relay will aim to showcase the recovery of the areas worst affected by the disaster, in line with the concept of ‘Hope Lights Our Way.’ In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will additionally symbolize the light at the end of the current dark tunnel; a beacon of hope for the world in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games, themselves a symbol of the resilience, unity and solidarity of humankind.”
The torch will reach Tokyo on July 9 and willlight the Olympic cauldron at the Olympic Stadium on July 23.
English rower Matthew Pinsent, who won four Olympic gold medals from 1992 to 2004, suggested on Twitter that “Tokyo be given the option of delaying until 2024, Paris move to 28 and LA 32. The athletes lose an Olympics but that's looking likelier by the day.”
Michael Phelps, who retired in 2016 holding the title as the most decorated Olympian in history, said, “The fact that you’re going to put 10,000 plus athletes, plus all the volunteers, plus all the coaches, it doesn’t make sense to me. I just don’t see how it can happen.”
My own view is that the Summer Olympic queue should be asked to shift. Tokyo given the option of delayling until 2024, Paris move to 28 and LA 32. The athletes lose an Olympics but that's looking likelier by the day.— Matthew Pinsent (@matthewcpinsent) January 11, 2021
In 2013, Japan estimated it would cost the country $7.3 billion when it won the bid to host the games, but that budget has since been officially updated to $12.6 billion—although it has been reported that the actual cost is now at $15 billion.
Bent Flyvbjerg, lead author of “Regression to the Tail: Why the Olympics Blow Up,” told the Associated Press (AP) that the cost overrun for Tokyo 2020 has already exceeded 200 per cent.
Tokyo’s budget is more than what the UK spent for London 2012, which at US$15 billion, “is the most costly Summer Olympics to take place on record.”
Perhaps the worst case of overspending for an Olympics was by Greece, which hosted the games in 2004. Years later, as the country sank deeper into debt, it was widely reported that the Olympics “helped push Greece into a fiscal black hole.”
Below, watch the Tokyo Olympics teaser, which debuted at the handover during the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil. Tokyo combined its athletes and animes in the video—and its prime minister in live action. How good it would have been all!