In full countdown to the celebration of the Tokyo 2020 Games, postponed a year by the covid-19 pandemic, the virus still forms a black cloud over its final launch. Although the Olympic torch has already left for the Japanese capital, the doubts about its celebration, with Japan in the middle of the fourth wave of infections, do not stop. The last to question it was none other than the head of the Japanese government’s panel of experts on the pandemic, Shigeru Omi, who this Wednesday considered that “it is time to discuss the Games”, whose inauguration is scheduled for July 23.
“We are reaching the moment when we must discuss (the celebration) of the event, taking into account the increase in infections,” said Omi during his speech at a session of the health committee of the Japanese parliament. “What is very important is the infection situation and how congested the medical system is,” added the expert, in response to a question from a member of parliament.
Omi’s statements come as the country goes through its fourth wave of infections. The Japanese authorities declared a state of emergency again in Tokyo and in three other regions on the 25th, so that the government responsible for managing the pandemic ordered his Government to begin discussing how the Games would develop if infections they continue to be high this summer.
In addition to Omi’s reluctance, there are citizen surveys in Japan, with the majority of those consulted against the Games being held on the scheduled date, instead supporting a new delay or even a definitive cancellation. However, the official message from the Yoshihide Suga government and the Tokyo 2020 organizers is that they keep going and can be held safely. The president of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, emphasized last week that the idea of canceling them is not on the table.
Hashimoto, who was a seven-time Olympian, replaced the octogenarian Yoshiro Mori last February, following a scandal that arose over sexist comments from him. Mori, prime minister of Japan in 2000 and 2001, criticized that meetings with women “take a long time” because “they love to compete against one another.”
“There are a lot of people looking forward to the Games,” Hashimoto said last week. “On the other hand, many people are worried. It is reality, and we must take into account both parties, “he added. The organizers assured this Wednesday that until June they will not decide how many spectators, if allowed public, will be able to attend the Olympic events, when they have more capacity to anticipate the incidence of the pandemic during their celebration. In March the Olympic Committee made the decision to prohibit the attendance of the public from abroad, so that it will only be local if it is given the green light. Tokyo has kept its borders closed to temporary visitors since December, when a new wave of covid began to spread around the world. They also included new precautions, such as daily screening of athletes, in contrast to the initial plan to do them every four days. Your closest circle will also have to pass a daily test. In total, about 15,000 athletes from around the world are expected to participate in the Games.
“We are ready to take all measures to minimize risks and make the Japanese public feel safe,” said the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach yesterday. “Our priority is the health and safety of everyone, not just the participants in the Olympics, but especially our gracious hosts, the Japanese people,” he added.
While the measures to protect an atypical Games are being discussed, and their celebration is even being questioned, some 10,000 runners are participating in the transfer of the Olympic flame to the Japanese capital, where it is expected on July 23. There it will burn in the Olympic Stadium until the closing of the event, on August 8.