The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are a mere four months off.
Are they really? Is it possible?
Late last month, Upper House Liberal Democratic Party rep Seiko Hashimoto spoke the unthinkable. More accurately, she hinted at it. Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), she said, “calls for the Games to be held within 2020.” That could, she allowed, “be interpreted as allowing a postponement.”
She stressed that she would rather not so interpret it. “We are doing all we can,” she said, “to ensure that the Games go ahead as planned.”
When the Games were planned, however, no deadly coronavirus raged. It rages now. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called it a pandemic. It is, potentially, a game-changer.
Supposing, then, a postponement. Until when? Fall? Fall is a busy time, sports-wise. European soccer, American football. Where would the Olympics fit in?
Nowhere, says Weekly Playboy (March 23). Forget fall, it says. It proposes an alternative: summer, 2021.
It would be a blow, no question about it – to organizers, athletes, the millions of people worldwide who have been planning for years to attend. There are political ramifications too. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, says Playboy, quoting an unnamed LDP insider, “hopes to use the successful Olympics as a thrust toward his goal of amending the Constitution.” Postponement – or worse, cancelation – would considerably dim the luster, though much less so than a mass outbreak of the infection at the Games.
Then there are the economic consequences. Some 3 trillion yen have gone into the Games. At worst, that could be money thrown away, not to mention the forfeit 30 trillion yen boost the event is expected to inject into the economy. So it’s not a decision that will be made lightly.
Be that as it may, in the end it won’t be Abe’s decision to make. It will be up to the IOC. And there’s not much time. Normally, athletes, media and others concerned would start arriving in Tokyo in May. Mid-April is about as far as deliberations can go. Really, says Playboy, the best bet would be for Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the JOC and the IOC to get together promptly and work out an agreement. Let’s do it next summer instead.
It could turn out a blessing in disguise, the magazine says. Safety aside, an extra year’s preparation can be put to good use. The Games will showcase Japan’s high-tech prowess, which a year from now will be a year’s worth more advanced, especially in the field of artificial-intelligence-based security. Japan has some catching up to do with the world in terms of cashless transactions, unstaffed shops and the like.
Makers and sellers of cutting-edge appliances may reap a windfall. Last fall’s Rugby World Cup saw soaring sales of high-resolution TV sets, but prices remain high, averaging some 400,000 per set. Next year they could be 200,000 yen, say industry sources.
There were problems last summer during trial swimming events at Odaiba Marine Park. The water stank, athletes complained. Levels of E.coli bacteria were found unacceptably high. A year’s delay might calm lingering uneasiness on that score.
One more issue: consider the crush, during the Games, of rush-hour commuters – bad enough at the best of times at hub stations like Shinjuku and Shibuya – when commuters are joined by Games-bound millions from all over the world. Think, Playboy says, of the compounding of everyday crowd problems like groping and theft. A clear if partial solution, it suggests, is teleworking – the very trick the epidemic is now forcing Japan to learn.© Japan Today