The message is coming through loud and clear: The delayed Tokyo Olympics will happen as scheduled, come what may, although what form it will take is up for discussion.
PM Suga spoke with billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates earlier this month, with both reportedly agreeing on the need to distribute coronavirus vaccines to developing countries to ensure the safety of the games. Days later, though, Japan’s top government spokesman said that widespread distribution of vaccines was not a prerequisite for going ahead with Tokyo 2020.
As for whether spectators will attend, “The question is, is this a ‘must-have’ or ‘nice-to-have,’” International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told Kyodo. “It’s nice to have spectators. But it’s not a must-have.” This line chimed nicely with Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto, who told AFP-Jiji it was “not desirable” to hold the games sans fans, but not out of the question either.
Japan’s opposition leaders are increasingly calling on the government to cancel or put off the Tokyo Games (again). Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii urged PM Suga on Thursday to ditch the idea and focus on taming the pandemic, citing the World Health Organization chief scientist’s comment that herd immunity cannot be acquired through vaccinations within this year.
But let’s assume Tokyo 2020 does go ahead in 2021. What do we know so far? Well, the plan is still for the torch relay to pass through 859 municipalities across Japan’s 47 prefectures before the games, with extra measures in place to avoid drawing big crowds — like axing celebrity participation.
Organizers said Monday they would also cut the number of athletes at the opening and closing ceremonies, with a report saying thousands fewer than originally planned will attend. Last month, Hiroshi Sasaki, the new creative director for Tokyo 2020, set the stage for a more frugal affair: “This is a chance to change the inflated image of Olympic ceremonies as being flamboyant stage shows,” he said.