Pages: Jittery Japan

John Z. Pages
·3 min read

Eighty-six days remain before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Yes, the year is 2021 and the Olympics is “2020” because the virus started in 2019.

The Japanese are scared. In a recent survey, a whopping 72 percent are opposed to holding the Games; 39.2 percent of respondents want the Olympics cancelled and 32.8 percent want it postponed again.

Why? Isn’t the Olympics the pride and glory of the host nation? And hasn’t Japan spent a gargantuan amount to be ready for the Opening Ceremonies on July 23?

Yes and yes.

The Tokyo Olympics, originally budgeted at $7.5 billion, has ballooned to $35 billion—making it the most expensive Summer Games ever.

Then why, despite the 3.77 trillion Japanese yen that the hosts are spending, are they anxious?

Covid-19. This is the unseen opponent that’s petrified the Japanese and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It’s more devious and foxy than any rival, more cunning than any assassin the world has encountered.

Consider this: Japan has the world’s oldest population. Japan has 126 million residents and 28 percent are aged 65 or above. This means that nearly one in three Japanese are senior citizens—the most vulnerable sector in this fight against the virus.

To make matters worse, Japan has a very low vaccination rate. Despite it owning the title of “the world’s third-largest economy,” Japan ranks at the bottom of the vaccination ladder.

Only 1.3 percent of Japanese have been vaccinated thus far. This is exactly the same percentage with the Philippines. But considering how wealthy Japan is versus our archipelago (Japan’s GDP is $5 trillion vs. our $377 billion—we are 7.5 percent the size of Japan’s economy), you would expect that the Pfizer, Moderna and AZ vaccines would have landed sooner in the shores of Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya—all 47 of Japan’s prefectures.

Inexplicably, the answer is no. This has caused a major worry with the nearing of the Olympics, which run from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Over 11,000 athletes are expected to arrive in Japan’s capital. If you add the coaches, officials, team members and entourage, this number will enlarge. Because of the pandemic, the IOC has placed a limit: No more than 90,000 athletes etc. will arrive in Japan. No foreign spectators are allowed.

Here’s another complication: The athletes are not required to be vaccinated prior to their arrival. I say “complication” because this is a big gamble on the IOC’s part.

I know, I know; vaccination, anywhere around the world, is not compulsory; but this creates a huge risk for the Games.

With 90,000 incoming guests from 205 countries and airports—all arriving at the Haneda or Narita airports in Tokyo, it’s a huge possibility that some of those individuals will carry the coronavirus.

In the Athlete’s Village where they are confined in close quarters, can you imagine the scenario if a Covid-19 outbreak happens?

One super-spreader can inflict considerable damage on the Olympics. Athletes may be barred. Events postponed or canceled. Zero spectators allowed.

No wonder the Japanese are jittery.