The Tokyo Olympics has already been long delayed with no thanks to the threat of COVID-19. Just like Euro 2020, the much-awaited festivities will be moved to around July assuming things go according to plan.
But a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases in Tokyo has put the Olympic Games in doubt once more. With the presence of the new COVID-19 variant originally discovered from United Kingdom, Japan has been severely affected by it as they are now in a state of emergency.
Prime minister Yoshihide Suga and his staff reported 4,527 new cases and 51 deaths last Tuesday alone, which brought the national total to beyond 300,000 cases along with more than 4,100 deaths.
Those numbers are quite alarming since it illustrates the stronger infection rate brought about by the new variant.
With this unfortunate development, the Tokyo Olympics Committee is faced with a huge dilemma on whether they will move the festivities to a much later date or to stay put at least for now and hope for the best.
Japanese citizens are alarmed and are leaning towards a delay or cancellation
Citing safety and health reasons, several polls have shown that majority of the Japanese citizens would oppose holding the Olympics this year.
A January 10 opinion poll by news outlet Kyodo found that 45-per cent of the respondents wanted to delay the Games, while 35-per cent called for a cancellation altogether and the remaining 15-per cent want the Games to push through as planned.
In a different poll held by TV Asahi, 60-per cent of the respondents also want either a delay or a cancellation, while the remaining 40-per cent want to push through.
While it makes a whole lot of sense to decide to postpone or cancel altogether, it is much easier said than done especially if you’re only from the outside looking in.
What are the financial implications?
Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya paints a clear picture as to why they are hesitant to further delay the Olympic Games.
“To be very clear, we have never discussed another postponement of the Games. We have 100-per cent concentration and focus on the delivery of a safe and secure Games this summer,” said Takaya in a recent interview.
“The COVID-19 situation is of course still an ongoing issue for everyone in the world but we will deliver the Games this year, starting July 23,” he added.
Takaya explained that the additional costs caused by the postponement has ranged to around $600 million to $1.1 billion, and that is said to be split between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government.
However, that amount might only appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.
In a report by Associated Press last December, the one-year delay sent costs soaring from $12.6 billion to $15.4 billion.
The added $2.8 billion is said to have come from renegotiating contracts from various parties involved along with the implementation of safety protocols to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long story short, further delay means bigger losses for the Tokyo Olympics Committee.
Eliminating COVID-19 will take some time
Everyone from around the world is hoping that this COVID-19 pandemic will be over soon. However, it will be a long and arduous process.
Since last year, pharmaceutical companies have worked on creating vaccines in order to stop the virus altogether. Doses from brands such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac have already been distributed in various parts of the world in order to kickstart the inoculation process.
But since these vaccines are relatively new, there is a high level of hesitancy from everyone. With limited information available out there along with its small time sample size, people in general are wary about getting inoculated right away.
In Japan, they plan to inoculate around 10,000 health workers in late Febuary, and then to senior citizens next in March.
Although they are prioritised to be given the vaccines, an opinion poll indicated that one third of those surveyed said they don’t want to take the vaccine for now.
Will all of these taken into account, these concerns would defer athletes and national teams from visiting Japan, making this year’s Olympic Games not feasible.
As it stands now, the Tokyo Olympics committee is still optimistic that the Games won’t be delayed any further, but not everything is within their control.
Hopefully, things will get much better in the next few months. Because if it doesn’t, this might be a replay of 2020 all over again.
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