Hosting the Olympics is not worth spreading COVID-19

A highly critical Japanese public opinion doesn’t help their case either

(Kristen Frier)

(Kristen Frier)

The quadrennial celebrations of humanity’s fastest and strongest have begun in the land of the rising sun. 

After a terrible year and a half of constant lockdowns and a lot of anxiety, this supposedly comes as a “much-needed” light of hope and a symbol of collective resistance in face of adversity. But it’s easy to ignore the elephant in the room with this reasoning: that this could become a disaster real quick. 

The Olympics originally planned for 2020 are currently being held with zero spectators and a state of emergency. These Games are a big deal for governments worldwide as they present an opportunity for muscle-flexing, literally and figuratively. As a result, they aren’t being deliberated over as “super-spreader” events because logic takes a back seat when patriotism takes charge. 

However, the Games pose a great potential risk to Japan and its people. Pew research found that most Japanese people prefer a postponement or cancellation of the Olympics, along with a general sense of distrust of the government. 

Newspapers and journals are rife with stories of Tokyoites protesting against the Games, including a notorious instance of an elderly woman trying to extinguish the Olympic flame with a water gun. This whole situation seems to be a recipe for disaster in the making.

If this were a “normal” Olympics, I would have only drawn attention to the usual stuff like corruption, bribery, and the trend of the Olympics bringing disappointing economic outcomes to the cities they are held in.

Traditional scandals notwithstanding, COVID-19 may turn out to be the new addition to the controversies associated with the Games. Japan already has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the developed world per capita. And while infections and death rates have remained low, they have risen consistently since the Games began, with over 9,000 new cases reported on July 28.

Olympics are being touted as a symbol of humanity’s togetherness and triumph in the face of adversity. However, With variants beginning to exhaust the entire Greek alphabet, is this a time for celebrations and potentially endanger people’s lives while supposedly trying to celebrate saving them? It’s oxymoronic. 

Athletes are also concerned about the impact of spectator-less stadiums but also question whether the Games without spectators mean anything at all. Prime Minister Yoshide Suga said Japan must fulfill its “obligation” to the rest of the world and that the Olympics have sentimental nostalgia for them. 

Nobody wants these Olympics to be remembered for the wrong reasons, and no obligation is more important than protecting people’s lives. With athletes testing positive for COVID, this should be a wake-up call.

It’s imperative that the Olympics be postponed to when things have absolutely no way of going wrong and when COVID-19 is a thing of the past, not when its ever-resurgent variants are taking a toll on countries worldwide. Only then would it be meaningful to celebrate our collective victory against this pandemic and not when a lot of concerted efforts are still left to be desired.