We have exactly 100 days until the Olympic cauldron is lit in Tokyo, but the host nation isn’t doing much to fan the flames of enthusiasm.
Today, a new survey from the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s leading daily newspapers, ran with a headline about citizens not wanting fans fully in the stands. (We’ll get back to that in a minute). But buried in the bottom few paragraphs of the report were a couple of statistics showing how many people still don’t want the Olympics this year at all. According to the survey, 34 percent of respondents said the Games “should be postponed again,” while 35 percent said they “should be canceled.” Only 28 percent said the Olympics “should be held this summer.”
Last year, a majority of Japanese businesses opposed a rescheduled Olympics. And in January, a poll found 80 percent of Japanese citizens in favor of canceling or postponing the games. Despite overwhelming public opposition, Tokyo Olympic organizers vowed to hold the international spectacle this summer. And it looks like they will. As much as anything can these days.
The Olympic torch relay kicked off three weeks ago and Japan has already announced that the event will go on without foreign fans. But how many domestic spectators will the country allow? (Organizers are expected to announce the number of domestic fans the Games will host later this month.)
Wellllll, survey respondents also don’t like the proposition of packed stadiums. 49 percent told the paper that fans should be limited and 45 percent think “no spectators should be allowed.” Add that up and you get 94 percent of citizens interested in limiting or outright banning fans from XXXII Olympiad.
Just two percent say the competitions should kick off “with the number of spectators as usual.”
There’s a reason behind the overwhelming sentiment, of course. As of today, Japan has vaccinated less than 1 percent of its population and COVID infections are rising again. While the island nation’s COVID-related cases and deaths pale in comparison to other countries, Japanese citizens are clearly concerned about the virus and justifiably wary of hosting an international event amid a global pandemic.
Before COVID-19, these Games were branded as the “Recovery Olympics,” remembering the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of 2011. That moniker took on a new meaning 2020. But, right now, it looks like the Games might start before Japan’s “recovery” wraps up.