Less than 100 days remain until the postponed Tokyo Games, which have been marred by waning public support amid a surging pandemic. Organizers tried to strike a positive note as they marked the occasion Wednesday, Ryusei Takahashi reports, even as a second prefecture opted to move the torch relay off its capital’s streets.
With Japan’s inoculation rollout lagging, a report last week that the country was considering prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines for its Olympic athletes sparked an outcry and was swiftly denied, in just the latest in a series of controversies in the buildup to the Games.
Tokyo organizers have also seen their share of personnel problems. First, the panel’s president was forced to quit over sexist comments. The creative director also fell on his sword after his tone-deaf “Olympig” idea was reported. Ex-Olympian Koji Murofushi, meanwhile, vowed last week he would continue as Japan Sports Agency chief despite battling an illness.
The pandemic is compounding what was already a logistical nightmare. Over the weekend, Kyodo reported that the organizers are planning to secure a 300-room hotel for infected athletes with minor or no COVID-19 symptoms. Meanwhile, untouched Tokyo prefabs built to house police during the games and were later renovated to host COVID-19 patients are being “unrenovated.”
Can the new Olympic committee chief take the pressure? The woman who did the equivalent job for the 2004 Athens Games believes Seiko Hashimoto can use the resilience she developed in her high-profile political and sports careers to carry the delayed 2020 Games to success.
The head of the Japan Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, also knows a thing or two about Olympics-grade frustration, having been forced to watch from the sidelines after qualifying as a judoka for the 1980 Moscow Games. “The memory comes back to me at times, when it’s needed,” he says.