Games offered many 'firsts' . . .
As the Tokyo Olympics conclude, many observers have highlighted the Games’ many unprecedented firsts. New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard made history by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games in a different gender category to that assigned at birth. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines won her country’s first-ever gold medal. A record number of “out” LGBT athletes competed at the games, and at least 30 athletes with mixed racial identity competed for team Japan, adding to a growing debate about Japanese identity, race, gender, and sexuality. Because the Games were held during a pandemic, and with historic opposition across Japan, they also have sparked much controversy about the leadership of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Suga looking more imperilled than ever . . .
A recent poll found that Prime Minister Suga’s approval rating has fallen to 35.9%, the lowest level since he took office in 2020. As Japanese vaccinations lag and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Suga’s gamble on a “safe and secure” Olympics does not appear to have paid off politically. To curb pressure on hospitals, the government has implemented a new policy in which only extremely ill COVID-19 patients are admitted. Critics have piled on criticism, with opposition leaders calling the policy "in-home abandonment." Japanese prime ministers have stepped down each time Japan hosted an Olympics in the past, and some are suggesting these Games could end with the same result.
2022 Olympics already marred by controversy . . .
Amid contemporary debates about the role of mega sporting events, China is facing intense criticism for its human rights record as it gears up to host the Winter Olympics in 2022. Several countries, including the United States, have accused China of committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, an allegation that China denies. Rights groups have also called attention to Beijing’s repression in Tibet and the chilling effects of its Security Law in Hong Kong. The pandemic is likely to similarly overshadow the upcoming event, and analysts will be watching closely as the opening date approaches.