Editorial: Should IOC pull the plug on Japan Olympics?

  • In this March 17 file photo, people walk past the Olympic rings in Tokyo. The Tokyo Olympics open in under four months, and the torch relay has begun to crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners.

    In this March 17 file photo, people walk past the Olympic rings in Tokyo. The Tokyo Olympics open in under four months, and the torch relay has begun to crisscross Japan with 10,000 runners. Associated Press file Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 5/13/2021 9:00 AM

If you had the opportunity to attend the Tokyo Olympics, would you? Would anything make you think twice?

The rescheduled 2020 Olympics are July 23 to Aug. 8. More than 11,000 athletes -- including more than 600 from the United States -- from 205 nations are expected to take part in 339 events among 33 sports. You probably can't go even if you wanted to. Japan has closed its borders to 152 nations, including the U.S. (The president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee previously said the decision on spectators will be made in June.)

 

The bigger and more important question, however, is should the Olympics even be held?

In a nationwide poll conducted by national newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun May 7 to 9, nearly 60 percent of the country's respondents said the Tokyo Olympics should be canceled.

In the host city of nearly 14 million people, 61 percent favored cancellation. As of Wednesday, an online petition signed by more than 330,000 people called for the games -- postponed last year because of the pandemic -- to be called off.

Japan officials said there have been 11,000 deaths due to COVID-19. According to Reuters, the virus and its variants are taxing the country's health care system. People are dying at home because of lack of hospital beds. Only about 2 percent to 3 percent of the population is vaccinated. One problem is the country's inability to get traction on a workable vaccine program.

Tokyo, like other parts of the country, remains under a state of emergency extended to May 31. It was to have ended two days ago. With that backdrop, it was announced Wednesday the U.S. track and field team canceled its training outside Tokyo because of safety concerns.

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach Monday canceled a trip to Japan he was to make next week to meet up with the torch relay in Hiroshima. Continuing on to Japan was a possibility.

The IOC said last week vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech would donate doses to inoculate athletes and their delegations. That is only part of a solution.

If the Olympics are canceled, billions of dollars will be lost. It is immeasurable, however, to calculate how many billions will be spent if the Olympics are conducted and the 17 days in Japan becomes an international superspreader event.

The pandemic, no matter the corner of the world, will not be over in 10 weeks. There will be no victory declared.

What the 2020 Games cannot become is the poster child for putting finances over safety at the expense of life over death.

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