IOC president cancels Japan trip as COVID cases spike — remind me again how safe the games will be

Thomas Bach
Thomas Bach
Photo: Getty Images

Well this isn’t the best look.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach — the man who has and will continue to reassure the world that the postponed 2021 games will be safe — has canceled an upcoming trip to Japan due to rising COVID cases in the country.

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A state of emergency has been extended in Tokyo and other parts of the island nation through May 31, which basically prohibited Bach from flying into the country next week — when the state of emergency was supposed to end.

Through a statement, Bach said he looks forward to visiting the country, “as soon a[s] possible.”

But if the President of the IOC has to cancel a trip to Japan, why should Japanese citizens feel reassured that the games will be as safe as promised?

Well... they shouldn’t feel reassured at all.

Over the past few months, various Japanese news polls have shown how unpopular the Olympics are among the citizenry. Some 70 to 80 percent of Japanese people feel like the Games should be postponed again or canceled outright. Tens of thousands have signed a petition to cancel the event. And the Olympic torch relay has been rerouted multiple times and was recently closed off to the public.

Japanese athletes like Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori have also raised concerns about the postponed Olympics.

“Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” Osaka said yesterday. But “if it’s making people very uncomfortable, then [holding the games] definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now.”

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That discussion to postpone or cancel the games has always revolved around Japan’s response to the pandemic, which has generally been better than most… until the vaccine rollout. The county has vaccinated less than 2 percent of its population. And unlike the U.S., Japan expects to have enough doses for everyone 16 and up by the end of September — a month and a half after the Games close.

Yes, we have roughly two and a half months till the opening ceremony. But with daily infections and deaths rising throughout the country, this is not looking to be the “successful and safe” Games Bach committed to less than two week ago.