The IOC VP in charge of the postponed Tokyo Olympics says the games will open as planned even if the city and other parts of Japan are under a state of emergency because of rising COVID-19 cases.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) May 21, 2021
I sympathize with the athletes hoping to compete, because their performance peaks are so hard-earned and so fleeting. But, pessimist that I am, all the potential scenarios for holding the Olympic competitions safely under the prevailing (pandemic) circumstances seem pretty damned bleak. And the IOC has the opposite of a reputation for holding the safety of its performers, never mind the locals, as a priority…
John Coates, speaking from Australia in a virtual news conference with Tokyo organizers at the end of three days of meetings, said this would be the case even if local medical experts advised against holding the Olympics.
“The advice we have from the WHO (World Health Organization) and all other scientific and medical advice that we have is that — all the measures we have outlined, all of those measures that we are undertaking are satisfactory and will ensure a safe and secure games in terms of health,” Coates said. “And that’s the case whether there is a state of emergency or not.”
Public opinion is Japan has been running at 60-80% against opening the Olympics on July 23, depending on how the question is phrased. Coates suggested public opinion might improve as more Japanese get fully vaccinated. That figure is now about 2%…
IOC officials say they expect more than 80% of the residents of the Olympic Village, located on Tokyo Bay, to be vaccinated and be largely cut off from contact with the public. About 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes are expected to attend.
Coates left no doubt that the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee believes the Tokyo Games will happen. The IOC gets almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, a key driver in pushing on. And Tokyo has officially spent $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics, though a government audit suggests the real number is much higher…
“At present there are not a few people who feel uneasy about the fact the games are going to be held where a lot of people are coming from abroad,” [Organizing committee head Seiko Hashimoto] said. “There are other people who are concerned about the possible burden on the medical system of Japan.”
She said the number of “stakeholders” coming to Japan from abroad had been reduced from 180,000 to about 80,000. She said Olympic “stakeholders” would amount to 59,000, of which 23,000 were Olympic family and international federations. She said an added 17,000 would involve television rights holders, with 6,000 more media.
She also said 230 physicians and 310 nurses would be needed daily, and said about 30 hospitals in Tokyo and outside were contacted about caring for Olympic patients. Organizers have said previously that 10,000 medical workers would be needed for the Olympics…
The IOC’s most senior member, Richard Pound, said in an interview with Japan’s JiJi Press that the final deadline to call off the Olympics was still a month away.
“Before the end of June, you really need to know, yes or no,” JiJi quoted Pound as saying.
Pound repeated — as the IOC has said — that if the games can’t happen now they will be canceled, not postponed again.
IOC President Thomas Bach now plans to arrive in Tokyo only July 12. He was forced to cancel a trip to Japan this month because of rising COVID-19 cases.
— jikon (@jikon) May 22, 2021
… “We have successfully seen five sports hold test events during a state of emergency,” John Coates, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee, said during a news conference at the end of a three-day virtual meeting to address preparations. “All of the plans to protect safety and security of athletes are based around worst possible circumstances. So the answer is absolutely yes.”…
…[I]f popular opinion doesn’t improve, he said: “Then our position is, we just have to make sure that we get on with our job. And our job is to ensure these games are safe for all of the participants and all the people who might come into contact with the participants.”
Coates said he expected that 80% of athletes who arrived for the games would be vaccinated, and he noted that some countries — including his native Australia — are moving to vaccinate journalists and others headed to the games.
Japan is behind many wealthy countries in administering coronavirus vaccines to its citizens — only 4.1% of the populations has received doses — and at the moment only health workers and older people are eligible…
Nearly 70% of Japanese firms want the Tokyo Olympics either canceled or postponed, a Reuters survey found, underscoring concerns that the Games will increase coronavirus infections at a time when the medical system is under heavy strain https://t.co/J5jwlUv8Jh pic.twitter.com/u3F23f6yZD
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 21, 2021
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) May 22, 2021
Veteran Australian epidemiologist Mike Toole has no misgivings when it comes to speculating on worst-case Covid-19 scenarios for the Tokyo Olympics.
One storyline tracks an athlete from a poor country that lacks vaccine supplies. They arrive in Tokyo, complete their events and return home – taking the coronavirus with them and spreading it in communities devoid of proper health care.
Another involves a player in a team sport such as football or hockey who tests negative on landing in Tokyo. Several days later, when they reach the semi-finals, he or she tests positive after the virus completes its incubation period and the whole team is quarantined. Do they cancel the semi-final?
Then there are the enthusiastic, party-loving young athletes whose future badge of honour would be to boast about how they once escaped the Olympics’ safety bubble to enjoy the bright lights of Tokyo … where they would promptly become infected. For many, even in some of the richer countries, vaccines are not yet an option.
All these scenarios are potentially real, even within the confines of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) vaunted Playbook – the athletes’ blueprint for Covid-19 safety now in its second version with a third and final update expected in June as new medical knowledge comes to light.
Crucially, all athletes will be left to fend for themselves if their nightmares come true. In the Playbook’s “introduction” section, a legal waiver is included that absolves the IOC, Japanese government and Tokyo Games organisers of any responsibility should an athlete, coach, official or journalist become infected with Covid-19 during their stay in Tokyo…
The IOC, however, cannot afford to cancel with the body earning 75 per cent of its income from selling Olympics broadcast rights. The IOC said it earned US$5.7 billion through broadcast and marketing rights from 2013 to 2016 covering the Sochi Winter Games and Rio Olympics. Much of that is distributed to the national associations and affiliates.
The Japanese government will see US$26 billion go down the drain if the Olympics are cancelled, with the cost of staging the Games tripling since Tokyo won hosting rights eight years ago. A sizeable portion of those costs are going into making sure the Games are safe. But the situation in Japan is becoming even more dire after the government on Friday added another prefecture, Okinawa, to the nine – including Tokyo – under emergency measures…
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 20, 2021
… As support wavers, organisers have sought to reassure the public that the Games can be held safely with coronavirus prevention measures in place.
Organisers are now making arrangements to halve the number of people coming to Japan as part of foreign Olympic delegations, broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday.
Some 94,000 people are expected to make their way to Japan for the games, down from an initial estimate of 200,000 people, NHK said citing unnamed government sources.
Foreign spectators will also be barred from watching the games in Japan. However, organisers have not confirmed whether they plan to allow domestic spectators into the venues, saying that a decision will be made in June.
More links here:
— Modern Tokyo Times (@MTT_News) May 22, 2021
Walking along anti-#Olympics protest last night in Tokyo. Latest poll shows >80% in Japan oppose the Olympics this year.
Some protesters tell me they lost their jobs during pandemic. Are frustrated billions are being poured towards the Games.
IOC says #Olympics will go on @CNN pic.twitter.com/PLkEWzTpHD
— Selina Wang (@selinawangtv) May 18, 2021