Can the Summer Olympics Survive Japan’s COVID-19 Surge?
Two years ago, the biggest hurdle for Tokyo as it planned to host the Summer Olympics was balancing local business and transportation needs with the influx of visitors. But then the pandemic hit, and now, as the summer games approach, it must contend with a COVID state of emergency.
Current opinion polls show at least 60% of Japanese citizens want the games canceled, according to NPR. But the bigger problem is the need for additional medical resources to accommodate visiting athletes and staff, at a time when less than 2% of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Cases are surging in and around Tokyo. Hospitals in Osaka – 2.5 hours by bullet train to Tokyo – are overflowing, and 35,000 are staying at home with the disease. As a result, the entire medical system has been slowed and overburdened.
In spite of the ongoing health crisis, both Japanese government officials and the International Olympic Committee are holding fast to the Olympics opening as scheduled on July 23. However, the IOC’s most senior member Richard Pound, in an interview with Japan’s JiJi Press, said that the final deadline to call it off was “before the end of June” – a date that is fast approaching during a perilous time.