First Olympic athletes arrive in Japan . . .
Today, the Australian women’s softball team became the first athletes to arrive in Tokyo ahead of the Summer Olympics, set to kick off on July 23. While the team left Tokyo to train in the city of Ota, more than 105 other municipalities cancelled plans to host Olympic teams ahead of the games. In Ota, athletes will have to abide by strict COVID-19 restrictions. The team will be tested every day and allowed to leave their hotel floor only to train.
Continued opposition . . .
In mid-May, a poll found that 83 per cent of Japanese wanted the Games to be cancelled or postponed. Japan’s top doctors also warned against going ahead with the Games, and the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association asked the government to push the International Olympic Committee to cancel them. Even in Canada, the public prefers not to send its athletes to Japan. But Olympic organizers have ignored these calls. At a cost that could exceed C$31 billion, the Tokyo Olympics are the most expensive in history, and further delays would raise the costs even further. Japan appears intent on moving forward with the Games to reap the rewards of its investment and in the hope that the Olympics will be an opportunity to raise the country’s international profile and showcase its innovation.
COVID-19 struggles . . .
Several areas of Japan, including Tokyo, are under a state of emergency until at least June 20 as the country fights its fourth wave of COVID-19. While new infections are declining, Japan recently saw a record number of patients in critical condition. Doctors across the country warned that the Games could further strain its health system. The Japan Doctors Union chair even warned that holding the Olympics could create an “Olympic strain” of the virus, as mutant strains from across the world would potentially mingle in Tokyo when athletes from over 200 nations come together. While the vaccination of athletes will reduce that risk, there are also questions about Japan’s lacklustre vaccination campaign. Only three per cent of the population has been vaccinated, and most of the elderly have yet to receive their first shot.