While organisers are adamant that the Olympic Games will go ahead as planned in Tokyo this summer, pressure is mounting from opponents with one petition amassing more than 350,000 signatures.
A state of emergency has been declared in Japan after the number of positive Covid cases in the country began to rise sharply, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed its plans to ‘move fully ahead’ with the Games despite a protestor gatecrashing an IOC meeting and launching a foul-mouthed ‘f*** the Olympics’ tirade.
On Saturday May 8, Japan recorded 7,000 new cases – the highest daily increase since January, and at the time of writing just 2% of Japanese people have had their first dose of a vaccine.
But while the pressure is mounting to postpone the Olympics for a while longer yet, Mark Adams – the IOC spokesman – continues to completely fail in reading the room.
“As things stand, and as we talk to our Japanese partners and friends, we are moving full ahead,” he said. “There has been a small extension of the emergency situation, but we continue to plan for full Games.
“Everything is telling us, from the test events to international events, that the Games can go ahead and will go ahead. With 78 days left before the Games, we are fully concentrated now in this last implementation phase of delivering an excellent Games which will really bring the world together.”
Behind the scenes, some 40 of the 500 towns in Japan earmarked to host training camps and cultural events have now withdrawn their support – including Chiba, which was to be the base for the U.S.A. team. The governor, Toshihito Kumagai, confirmed that the athletes would not be given preferential treatment over locals and that ‘hospital beds cannot be guaranteed’ to any stars that fall ill or suffer an injury.
And that huge petition, with 355,000 names and rising making it the fastest-growing bill in the history of Change.org in Japan, will be submitted to the governor of the country’s capital.
“Tokyo, as the host city, should urge the IOC to cancel,” said the petition’s founder, Kenji Utsunomiya.
The Show Must Go On
In complete defiance of the protestations, the IOC has released the official schedule of events for the Tokyo Games.
Some 339 individual events across 33 sports and 42 venues will be crammed into just 18 days of action, with the football and baseball competitions getting the Games underway on Wednesday July 21.
The medal races and events of the athletics section will take place from Friday July 30, while other dates for the dairy include the medal-winning contests in swimming (July 25-August 1), rowing (July 27-30), tennis (July 30-August 1) and boxing (August 3-8). The closing ceremony is scheduled for August 8.
Those competing will benefit from a dose of the Covid vaccine after the IOC struck a deal with Pfizer, however a number of new rules – including a ban on restaurant and bar visits, and strict rules on when an athlete can arrive in Tokyo and leave – will be in force for the 2021 Games.