• February 26, 2024

Olympics Under Rising Scrutiny In Japan As Government Pushes Forward : NPR

A crowd demonstrated against the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month in Tokyo, Japan. With less than three months to go before the Olympics, concerns in Japan remain about the possibility of hosting such a major event amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Yuichi Yamazaki / Getty Images Hide caption

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Yuichi Yamazaki / Getty Images

A crowd demonstrated against the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month in Tokyo, Japan. With less than three months to go before the Olympics, concerns in Japan remain about the possibility of hosting such a major event amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Yuichi Yamazaki / Getty Images

The Japanese government put a larger part of the country into a state of emergency of the coronavirus on Friday as the opposition to the Tokyo Olympics becomes more organized and vehement, with only 70 days left until the opening ceremony.

Nine of Japan’s 47 prefectures are in a state of emergency after Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima by the end of the month joined this list on Friday. The two largest cities Tokyo and Osaka are in a state of emergency. The number of cases in a fourth wave of infections continues to rise.

The government remains firmly convinced that the Games will go as planned and is committed to putting in place appropriate anti-virus measures to keep the Olympics safe.

The problem is that local governments and medical institutions are opposed to central government efforts to secure scarce medical resources for the Olympics. They refuse to prioritize Olympic athletes and staff over their own people.

“We are not considering securing or assigning hospital beds to people in connection with the Olympics if it means our prefecture’s citizens cannot use them,” said Toshihito Kumagai, governor of Chiba Prefecture. told Reporter Thursday.

Surfing, wrestling, taekwondo and other Olympic events take place in Chiba, which borders Tokyo. Ibaraki and Kanagawa prefectures, also located near Tokyo and hosting events, have made similar decisions due to scarce medical resources.

About 40 out of more than 500 cities are from a program The Nikkei newspaper reports that it will host Olympic athletes for training camps and cultural exchanges. Chiba announced This week the U.S. track and field team canceled its training camp in the prefecture for about 120 athletes.

On Thursday, a union representing 130 doctors submitted a written request to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs to cancel the Games. “We shouldn’t turn Tokyo into a coronavirus hotspot. The Tokyo Olympics shouldn’t take place now,” said group leader Dr. Naoto Ueyama, told reporters on Thursday.

Another group of critics delivered A petition to the Olympic organizers on Friday that had collected around 350,000 online signatures within nine days and called for the games to be canceled.

And at the end of last month, healthcare workers took to Twitter protest a government request to the Japanese Nursing Association for 500 Nurses to help with the Olympics. “We are not throwaway farmers,” scolded a nurse in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the tone of criticism of the government and its insistence on holding the Games is mounting.

“No vaccine. No medication. Shall we fight with bamboo spears?” asked a whole page display in three national newspapers published by the outspoken Takarajimasha Publishing House. “We will be killed by politics if things stay the same,” she added, showing a picture of the coronavirus as well as pictures of WWII-era children training with wooden weapons to fight US troops.

For the Japanese, the images are a familiar reminder of a callous government that sacrifices innocent lives for a lost cause.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga defended himself in parliament on Monday. insist that he had never “put the Olympics first” and said that “my priority has been to protect the life and health of the Japanese people.”

Opposition lawmakers say the opposite is true.

“Unfortunately, we have to say that it is impossible to protect the life, health and livelihood of the Japanese people during the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Yukio Edano, chairman of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. told Legislators Monday.

The game organizers continue to deny any indication of uncertainty about the game’s fate that is very characteristic of them, he says Jules Boykoff, a retired professional soccer player and Olympics historian from Pacific University Oregon.

“Historically, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been impervious to public opinion,” he says. “It is their most important thing and they are not going to lose it to public opinion.”

He points out that 90% of Olympic revenue comes from broadcasting rights and corporate sponsorship. Even if the games are reduced to a pure TV spectacle, the IOC still gets its money.

Even so, Boykoff, who has researched the anti-Olympic movement in several countries, including Japan, notes that opposition to the Games is growing so strong that it is hard to ignore.

“Such a contradiction against hosting the Games at full throttle,” he says, “is unprecedented in recent history of the Olympic Games.”

If Boykoff pushes the Games forward, it could lead to “a relatively joyless affair, lacking the cultural exchange and interaction that make the Olympics special for many people”.

In contrast, the cancellation of the games could remind people that some things, including public health, are more important than an optional sports spectacle.

“These things are more important than sports,” he says. “They are more important than the money the Olympics will generate.”

Chie Kobayashi contributed to this report from Tokyo.


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