In recent weeks, there has been a standoff between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese public as to whether the Tokyo Games should be held. After being postponed for a year due to COVID, the summer Olympic Games of 2020 are rescheduled to begin on July 23, 2021 in and around Tokyo, Japan. However, the Japanese citizens have protested the hosting of the Olympics, citing concern for public health and safety. Just 5 percent of the Japanese population is currently vaccinated. There have been recent COVID outbreaks in Tokyo, accounting for a fourth wave of cases in a country that has mostly avoided the large-scale infections suffered by other nations. In all, there have been approximately 716,000 infections and 12,000 deaths from the virus in Japan. These numbers could see a dramatic increase if the country ultimately decides to permit the Olympics and/or open up attendance to crowded sports arenas.
For now, it appears like the games will be held without the crowds of spectators. The Japanese government has banned international travelers from entering Japan to attend the games, and is considering a similar ban on domestic viewers. Nobody disagrees with the ban on international spectators. The U.S. State Department has recommended that Americans not travel to Japan at all for the foreseeable future, due to the possibility of catching one of the COVID variants during their stay.
However, there remains a sharp debate between who has the ultimate authority to cancel the Olympics, should the threat of COVID remain high. IOC member, Dick Pound told a publication that the event would take place, even if Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga asked that it be cancelled. The comments were a blatant disregard to the 80% of Japanese citizens, politicians, medical workers and corporate leaders who do not want the Olympics to move forward. The IOC has a financial stake in the Games happening, as 73% of its revenues come from the sale of broadcast rights, which would disappear if the Olympics didn’t happen. Japan, however, has lost a majority its revenue prospects from hosting, as tourism revenue from hosting has dissipated given international spectators will be disallowed.
As we’ve seen over the last year, COVID rates and risks can change in a matter of weeks. We all wish Japan and its citizens good health and strength in the weeks to come. COVID has reminded us that we are all one nation of humans.
Bob Veres Media, Insider Information