The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics kicked off Thursday in Fukushima Prefecture, as organizers try to build momentum for the opening of the global sporting event in late July amid low public support and worries about fueling the coronavirus pandemic.

The relay is designed to showcase Japan’s culture, history and landscapes as the flame traverses through all 47 prefectures, with some of the 10,000-odd torchbearers set to kick things up a notch by skiing, being dragged by a horse on an iron sled — even using ancient Japanese swimming techniques.

But in Fukushima, feelings about the relay are mixed. While some, like Gov. Masao Uchibori, are keen to show off the progress made since 3/11, others feel the government has used the 2011 disasters to sell the “Reconstruction Olympics” when the process is far from over. “There are still people who cannot live at home. Do you call that recovery?” one resident tells Kyodo.

Tokyo 2020 Games: Olympic torch relay begins in Fukushima | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH
Tokyo 2020 Games: Olympic torch relay begins in Fukushima | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH

It’s been a bumpy road for the games, and there were many who doubted Tokyo 2020 would ever get to this juncture with a pandemic still raging. But along the way, according to Bloomberg, Japan’s Olympic organizers have all but lost control of any messaging, with no real strategy to generate momentum toward holding the fast-approaching and unpopular games.

To grasp why the Tokyo Games will almost definitely take place regardless, look no further than the momentum provided by money and politics, writes Ryusei Takahashi. From the construction of new venues and record ticket sales to coveted TV rights, lucrative sponsorships and backdoor politics, years of commercialization have raised the stakes for the Olympics to new heights.

With every investment a greater gamble than the last and every marketing opportunity that much more enticing, the Olympics today are simply too big to fail.