Despite a brewing fourth wave of the pandemic, a sluggish vaccination drive and overwhelmingly negative public sentiment in Japan, the Olympics are scheduled to begin in Tokyo on July 23. Test events are taking place, athletes are arriving and the torch relay kicked off last week.

While the relay won’t go through Osaka city, where infections are soaring, Shimane’s governor said Tuesday he will allow the torch to pass through his prefecture, despite suggesting earlier this year that the event may be called off if the coronavirus situation didn’t improve. Which it hasn’t.

On this week’s Deep Dive podcast, host Oscar Boyd is joined by New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Motoko Rich to discuss why the government seems so intent on holding the games this summer, and the risks associated with them going ahead as planned.

China dismisses potential U.S. boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing | CNA
China dismisses potential U.S. boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing | CNA

As has been mentioned before in T5, China might have something to do with Japan’s determination to hold the games at all costs. Fear of being upstaged by Beijing, which will host the Winter Games next year, is no doubt a factor.

But Beijing 2022 may face a very different problem, Jesse Johnson and Satoshi Sugiyama report. The U.S. State Department has said that Washington would discuss with allies a potential boycott of the 2022 Games over issues such as the mass detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

If such a boycott gains currency, it could force Japan into a tight spot as it grapples with how best to confront its powerful neighbor over human rights issues. “If the G7 … all decide to boycott, Tokyo would find it hard to not join,” reckons Asia expert Stephen Nagy.