• Ashhar Hassan

Uncertainties of Tokyo | Olympics 2020

The Olympics

The world’s biggest sporting event, carried out in the middle of a pandemic?

The IOC and the Japanese authorities claim that they’ll be able to “pull it off”; turning a deaf ear to a majority of the population, which demands its cancellation. .

Tokyo was placed under an emergency till 20th June, which has now extended to the event being held behind closed doors for the first time ever, in addition to the host city being in a virus-induced emergency throughout the Games.

Moreover, the event has been shrouded in a slew of controversies over its decision to ban three athletes from track and field over naturally high testosterone levels; in the process drawing flak from all quarters.

Hospitality or Hostility

The multi-billion-dollar extravaganza is scheduled to begin on the 23rd of July with a huge chunk of athletes already in Tokyo. The participants will be staying at the Olympic Village only for the duration of their competition, undergo regular testing and temperature checks, and be barred from using public transportation and visiting public places.

Merit - The event is crucial for the Sponsors, Broadcasters, and the teams/athletes who have been on their toes since the 125th IOC session in 2013.

Demerit -The Games could adversely affect the mental health and performance of athletes, owing to fear of infection, plus the risk of the virus itself.

Government and Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic saw Japan face a crisis characterized by an extreme shortage of medical professionals, healthcare services, and lack of funds. Ironically, when Former Prime Minister Abe was asked to increase the budget, he rejected the opposition’s demand, effectively terming it premature, and advised the Japanese public against testing and visiting medical institutions unless their symptoms were severe. Subsequently, the country ended up facing four different waves, struggling to keep its head above the water.

Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet proved incapable of handling the crisis in the country and protecting its citizens, with the PM said to be “invisible” in order to escape the accusations of mismanagement, leading to his resignation.


The IOC has responded by saying “The Games will go ahead irrespective of public opinion and even if there is a state of emergency in Tokyo” and “people will have to make sacrifices”.

At a time when vaccine rollout is painfully slow, with less than 3 percent of the population fully jabbed, this means an influx of nearly 15,000 athletes accompanied by thousands of officials, judges, journalists, and volunteers in Tokyo. The collective dissatisfaction was visible during the Torch Relay in Nara, where a resident reported a complete absence of spectators for the ceremony.

Another factor against postponement has been the Winter Olympics of 2022, hosted by China. Further delay could result in the Olympics being co-hosted by Japan and China but this is nearly impossible as both have been arch-enemies for centuries.

All this condemnation and Government’s rigidity formulate a single collective sentiment - “ Cash is king”


Sources: DW News, Reuters, New York Times, CNN, Prospect Magazine

~ Ashhar Hassan