Japan-World Trends [English] The author of this blog will answer to your questions and comments. And this is the only place in the world where you can engage in free discussion with people from English, Japanese, Chinese and Russian speaking areas.

Japan Diary

May 26, 2021

Explore some constructive alternative in lieu of holding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics

It is time to think how to cancel the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games in a constructive way. Below is my article originally published in Japanese in Newsweek Japan and then in English on the homepage of The English-Speaking Union of Japan https://www.esuj.gr.jp/jitow/623_index_detail.php#english

Explore some constructive alternative in lieu of holding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics

KAWATO Akio / Former Japanese ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Columnist at Japanese "Newsweek"

I finally managed to make the booking for my coronavirus vaccination, but the pandemic shows no sign of abating by the time of the Tokyo Olympics in July. The Suga Administration and the IOC (International Olympics Committee) apparently have staked their fate on holding the Olympics as planned. If things continue as they are, it seems more likely that they will fail and their power will be damaged.

Let's try a bit of simulation to see if the Tokyo Olympics can really be held as planned.

To start with, welcoming the athletes at the airports and transporting them to their accommodations at the Olympic Village. Through the Olympic and Paralympic period, more than 10,000 athletes and other participants will be swarming in, one group after another, from all over the world. Given the differences in anti-COVID-19 measures from country to country, the quarantine will have to be administered scrupulously in a fashion tailor-made to each country and individual. There will be a large number of athletes and officers of national teams who cannot speak English. There may be enough citizen volunteers in numbers, who have been recruited to assist the athletes and other participants from abroad. But can they really take care of the multitude of detailed needs that may arise amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Buses cannot be used for transporting these people within Japan. For every single one of them, a car, a driver, and an attendant will be needed. In the Olympic Village, single rooms, instead of shared rooms thus far planned, will have to be allocated to each athlete/participant. The little less than 4000 rooms currently available will not be sufficient. The dining rooms will be packed full, far beyond the allowable level of density. This means that meals will have to be delivered to each room by catering service: an impossible job.

With the Olympics under normal circumstances, problems that may arise can be dealt with at the discretion of the athletes themselves or the officers of the national teams. This time, however, the central "headquarters" will need to monitor the movements of all the athletes including those competing outside Tokyo and, whenever problems arise, will have to coordinate with all those concerned with a view to solving them, and instruct the attendants to act accordingly. This is a huge logistic feat that requires the know-how as well as the means of communication to mobilize a large number of vehicles and personnel simultaneously. It may only be the Self-Defense Forces or the police that can do this, but we should refrain from using them, which would be an extra-legal expediency. Taking all these into account, it does seem impracticable to hold the Tokyo Olympics under the present circumstances.

It is said that the International Olympic Committee secures 70% of its revenue through television broadcasting rights fees (NBC Universal of the US alone has allegedly committed itself to pay the IOC $7.65 billion for monopolizing the broadcasting rights through 2032), and distributes a part of the revenue to support sports organizations and national Olympic committees around the world. If the Olympic Games are called off, such sports activities will presumably cease to be viable.

However, in January this year, a source connected with the international Olympic movement stated that even if the Tokyo Olympics were cancelled, it would not mean that some sports organization will cease to operate. It is true that some in Japan take the matter seriously and argue that should the Games be cancelled, cancellation fee would have to be paid. But there is no such provision in the contract between IOC and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The modern Olympic Games were founded through the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. It was thanks to the work of people involved in sports around the world that the pure and clean image of the Olympics, based on the amateur spirit, was established. But today, the amount of money changing hands around the Olympics has become much too large. No one knows for certain how much money is channeled where and for what purpose.

This leads me to suggest that, instead of merely cancelling the Tokyo Olympics & Paralympics, each country invites its public to come up with free and costless alternative ideas. For example, some interesting event in commemoration of the Tokyo Olympics & Paralympics may be held with the participation of its athletes who would have participated in the Tokyo Games. The event may be disseminated worldwide through SNS, and the number of Like signs earned can be the subject of competition around the world. The advertising revenue can be donated to developing countries to help them purchase coronavirus vaccines. If Japan takes such an initiative and sets up a unified SNS platform using its own fund, it may assuage the feelings of the athletes, save the fate of IOC and the Suga Administration, and improve Japan's image as well.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan