Tokyo 2020: Can’t look, Can’t look away

Published on February 9th, 2021

Tracking the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics has been a “can’t look, can’t look away” series of incidents. Perhaps the only positive was when the sailing venue was moved out of Tokyo Bay, which now reports to have a high level of pollution. At least it wasn’t a repeat of Rio 2016.

But since then it has been about the deadly heat, deadly tsunamis, and now deadly virus. Understandably fatigued, the locals are over it, with more than 80% of people in Japan recently surveyed saying the Olympics should be canceled or postponed. Good times!

The International Olympic Committee, Japanese Government, and the local Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have been doing all they can to stay positive and on message. After the one year postponement, there is nothing now that will stop the Games being held, they say. Unfortunately, that’s not all they say.

When Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori, 83, was recently quoted as saying women talk too much and that meetings with many female board directors would “take a lot of time”, it was the latest typhoon to hit this island nation.

Mori has been on an apology tour, but now volunteers are quitting and over 110,000 people have signed a petition for action. In a statement, the International Olympic Committee said his statements were “absolutely inappropriate”.

Hoping this incident will pass too, the Associated Press reports more clouds are forming.

Mori has been the continuing topic of talk and news shows, which point out that the World Economic Forum ranks Japan 121st of 153 countries in gender equality. This contrasts with Japan’s image as a sophisticated, developed country and the home of some of the world’s most famous and trusted brands.

Mori’s future could come to a head in a matter of days with reports that local sponsors are upset. They have contributed a record $3.5 billion to the Tokyo Games. Widely circulated reports in Japan say the organizing committee’s executives will meet this week to discuss his fate.

The fallout is reaching the upper rungs of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Toshihiro Nikai, the 81-year-old general secretary of the party, criticized several hundred games’ volunteers who said they are dropping out as protest.

“If they do want to quit no matter what, we have to recruit additional volunteers,” said Nikai, who was challenged by Taro Aso, the 80-year-old deputy prime minister and a former prime minister himself. Aso is also a former Olympian and said Nikai showed a “lack of respect” for the volunteers.

All the disruption could further soil Tokyo’s image as it tries to pull off the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic, saddled with soaring costs that are now officially $15.4 billion but believed to be much higher.

Tokyo Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021

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