One of the more dramatic one-eighty-degree turns in national opinion in recent years could be found in Japan, host of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. When the previous Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil concluded in 2016, the Japanese were enthusiastic about becoming the next hosts to the global multisport competition, having done so in 1964. When the COVID pandemic hit, they were relieved that the Olympics were postponed. When the IOC and national organizers tried to push the Games through this 2021 despite no significant downturn in the pandemic, the Japanese became loud critics calling for the current Olympics to just be cancelled.

But as notes, after the delayed Tokyo Olympics finally began this past July 23, the harsh opposition to the event in Japan seems to have softened. While the naysayers remain, some citizens in the pandemic-ridden country now have a positive opinion of hosting the Games even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Now-confident fans, while still denied access to most of the event venues, have tried to cheer for the athletes as much as they could. And outside of the Games themselves, interest in themed memorabilia and merchandise have begun to show surprising highs.

The new Japanese mood for the Tokyo Olympics can be best demonstrated by Hirochika Takeda, 42, an IT professional and Tokyo resident who happened to look out the window and cheer on the women’s triathlon participants as they passed outside his apartment in rainy weather. “I had questions about holding the Olympics right up until the opening ceremony,” says Takeda. “But once the sport began, I started to feel that maybe this is a good thing.” In his view, once you see Olympians you cannot help but cheer for them.

And if catching the athletes in person is a no-go, then watching on TV has become the trending new Japanese pastime. Local statistics show that over half of all Tokyo households have tuned in to watch the Olympics live at some point or other. Even Tokyo 2020 souvenirs have been getting a sales surge, with stores selling official Olympic merchandise are becoming busy according to Tokyo 2020 licensing head Hikari Iinuma. A notable factor in the change of attitude Japan holds for the Games might spring from the splendid performance of their national athletes, which presently matches the total medal frontrunner China in the amount of Gold medals won (11).

On the other hand, concerns about a COVID super-spreader at the Olympics remain tangible, particularly as 2,848 new cases were reported just this Tuesday, July 27. While their protests are subdued for the moment, they ask fellow Japanese not to forget the pandemic even now.

Image courtesy of Yahoo News