Japanese anime fans last year got some kick off the news that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics were postponed for 2021. This recalls a throwaway scene from iconic 1988 anime film “Akira” – set in 2019 – showing a 2020 Olympics banner in Neo-Tokyo, vandalized with calls for it to be cancelled. The year 2021 is here and, despite a rising call from Olympic committee officials to just cancel the event due the remaining specter of COVID-19, organizers in Tokyo are determined that the games push through this time. However, an added caveat might entail that the Olympians compete in venue, but without live spectators for safety.
As the rescheduled Summer Olympics begins its tentative countdown to July 2021, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee are now considering shutting out spectators from the stands even as they remain determined to push the Games through. Japan Today would have it that the Tokyo Olympics organization CEO Toshiro Muto has acknowledged the anxiety of people with the prospect of gathering for one of the biggest sporting events in the world, even as the COVID pandemic shows no sign of dying down. With that in mind, he would not oppose barring spectators from the stands if only to ensure that the athletes come to Tokyo and compete as scheduled.
“We are not discussing cancellation,” Muto declared in an interview. “Holding the Games is our unwavering policy, and at this point in time we’re not discussing anything other than that.” He also believes that as COVID vaccination has begun this first month of the year, by the time July comes and barring unforeseen developments, both Olympians and fans, if they are lucky, would feel confident enough to take part in the Olympics even without having to wait and be vaccinated.
The Tokyo organizing CEO’s optimism runs counter to the opinion of the once-deputy chairman of the 2012 London Summer Olympics organizing committee, who believes the capital of Japan has missed its chance last year due to the insurmountable obstacle of the pandemic, and that it should graciously terminate all preparations as insisting on holding the games despite uncertainties is “ludicrous.” Even Japanese respondents to a January 2021 poll voted 80% not wanting the Olympics to proceed. Tokyo itself remains in a state of emergency due to a renewed uptick of COVID cases over the New Year transition. This could be the first time the Olympics might be possibly cancelled that is not during wartime. It happened during the World Wars.
Toshiro Muto is undeterred in committing to hosting the games even one year late saying, “It’s precisely because we’re in this situation that we need to remember the value of the Olympics -– that humankind can coexist peacefully through sport.”Image from The Straits Times