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Can the New Year’s goal of Yoshihide Suga be achieved after repeated public opinion shifts to the pandemic?

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△On December 31, 2020, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga talked to a journalist in his Tokyo office. The two dolls behind him are the mascots of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Image source: Kyodo News)

January 1, 2021 local time, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga delivered a New Year’s speech, expressing his determination to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer.

Previously, due to Coronavirus Pandemic, the Olympic Games, originally scheduled to be held in the summer of 2020, were postponed to the end of July 2021.

Tokyo Olympics without a third option 

On the first day of 2021, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised in his New Year speech: “The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held this summer.” He described the event as the unity of the world and emphasized that “Japan will be Prepare for a safe and secure game.”

△On March 24, 2020, the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee issued a joint statement to make arrangements for the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. (Image source: Official website of the International Olympic Committee)

As early as March 24, 2020, the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee issued a joint statement stating that in view of the pandemic situation at the time, the Tokyo Olympics need to be rescheduled to after 2020, but not later than the summer of 2021. 

On March 30, the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee jointly announced that the postponed Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021. There will be 11,000 athletes from all over the world participating, and then the Paralympics will be held.

△On April 28, 2020, Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, accepted an interview with the Japanese media “Nikkan Sports”. (Image source: “Journal Sports”)

As for “if the pandemic in Japan in July 2021 is severe and the Olympics cannot be held again, will the 2020 Tokyo Olympics be postponed again?” Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, said in an interview with the media in April 2020 that if Coronavirus pandemic cannot be held in 2021 Under control, the Olympics will be cancelled directly and will not be postponed again.

On May 9, 2020, John Coates, Chairman of the International Olympic Committee Coordinating Committee, also confirmed the statement that “there is no further extension, only cancellation”.

△The English text of Yoshihide Suga’s New Year’s speech published on January 1, 2021 on the Japanese Cabinet website. (Image source: Japan Cabinet website)

Therefore, Yoshihide Suga made a speech at the beginning of the new year in 2021 and decided to hold the Olympics this year as scheduled, which is actually a “have to” option.

Difficulties for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics 

△The budget of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee (picture source: Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee official website)

Since Tokyo’s successful bid for the Olympic Games on September 7, 2013, Japan has spent seven years preparing. As of July 2020, Japan has spent US$12.4 billion in preparation for the Olympics. 

However, due to the postponement, in December 2020, the organizer of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee stated that the Olympic budget will increase by approximately US$2.4 billion.

In the case of “no third option”, the Japanese government will either accept the huge investment it has made before or grit its teeth to advance the Olympics.

△On December 24, 2020, 68 local Japanese sponsors of the Tokyo Olympics agreed to sign a new contract for the extension of the Olympic Games to July 2021 (Image source: Associated Press)

Even if the Olympic Games can be postponed again in 2021, the cost of the postponement period will need to be borne by the Japanese government, and its financial burden will further increase. 

What’s more, the sponsors and broadcasting contractors of the Tokyo Olympics have already experienced an extension and re-signed related contracts. Whether they can agree to another extension and continue to provide sponsorship is also a question.

Under such difficulties, the Japanese government’s only option is to promote the Olympics, but the Japanese people do not buy it.

△ The Japanese English-language media “Japan Times” reported on December 15 that a survey conducted by NHK in December was cited. The survey results showed that most Japanese people opposed hosting the Olympic Games in 2021. (Image source: “Japan Times”)

A survey released by NHK in December found that only 27% of Japanese want the Olympics to continue, compared with 40% in October.

The December survey showed that the percentage of Japanese people who tend to cancel has risen to 32%, an increase of 9 percentage points from 23% in October. 

Some respondents hope that the Olympic Games will be postponed again, the proportion reached 31%.

According to NHK’s analysis, the main reason for the change in mentality among Japanese people is the surge in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan in winter.

Japan’s pandemic prevention pressure increases sharply in winter

Olympic host city Tokyo becomes hardest hit

Since November, Japan has ushered in the third wave of pandemic. During this period, the Japanese government has successively launched an economic stimulus plan totaling US$708 billion, a total ban on foreigners entering the country, and a suspension of the “Go To Travel” plan to cooperate with the pandemic. There is still no significant effect in curbing the pandemic.

△From February 21, 2020 to January 1, 2021, the curve of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Japan daily. (Data source: Johns Hopkins University)

According to statistics, it took about 33 days for the cumulative number of confirmed cases in Japan to increase from 100,000 to 150,000, about 20 days for the increase from 150,000 to 200,000, and 12 days for the increase from 200,000 to 240,000.

From the number of confirmed cases In terms of growth rate, the Japanese pandemic is still “climbing”.

△As of January 1, 20201, among the 1 capital, 1 prefecture, 2 prefectures and 43 prefectures in Japan, Tokyo has the most severe pandemic, with a total of 61,028 confirmed cases, followed by Osaka prefecture with 30,262 cases. (Data source: Johns Hopkins University)

As the host city of the Tokyo Olympics, Tokyo also faces tremendous pressure from the pandemic.

Among Japan’s 1 capital, 1 province, 2 prefectures and 43 prefectures, Tokyo has become the most severely affected area in Japan with a total of more than 60,000 confirmed cases, which is twice as high as the number of confirmed cases in Osaka Prefecture, which ranks second.

△The Minister in charge of the Japanese central government’s response to the Coronavirus (third from left), Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (fourth from left) and the governors of three prefectures around Tokyo attended the press conference held on the 2nd. (Image source: Kyodo News)

Just after Yoshihide Suga emphasized that the Tokyo Olympics would be held as scheduled on the first day of the New Year, on January 2, 814 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Tokyo, showing a rapid spread. 

On the same day, the governors of the Japanese capital Tokyo and the three surrounding counties jointly called on the Japanese central government to declare a state of emergency again to curb the recent rapid spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said: “As long as we can contain the spread of the pandemic, we will take as many measures as we can.”

NHK reported on the 3rd that on January 2, local time, Japan had 3,059 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a total of 242,056 confirmed cases; 31 new deaths and a total of 3,572 deaths.

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