Welcome to the No Fun Games

Published on June 23rd, 2021

The Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by the pandemic, are not looking like much fun: Not for athletes. Not for fans. And not for the Japanese public.

They are caught between concerns about the coronavirus at a time when few are vaccinated on one side and politicians who hope to save face by holding the games and the International Olympic Committee with billions of dollars on the line on the other.

Japan is famous for running on consensus. But the decision to proceed with the Olympics — and this week to permit some fans, if only locals — has shredded it.

“We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not,” Kaori Yamaguchi, a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee and a bronze medalist in judo in 1988, wrote in a recent editorial published by the Kyodo news agency. “The IOC also seems to think that public opinion in Japan is not important.”

But now, worries that the games will be become an incubator for the virus hang over them. For now, the rolling averages of deaths and cases have stabilized in a country that has reported more than 14,000 deaths — good by global standards but worse than many of its Asian neighbors.

While the games may still end up wowing television audiences who will tune in around the world, the pandemic has removed any sense of celebration. Athletes are meant to stay in the village or venues. Most others entering Japan for the Olympics can only shuttle between their hotels and venues for the first 14 days, must sign a pledge of follow the rules, and could have their movements monitored by GPS.

There will be no public viewing areas in Tokyo. The few fans who can attend venues must wear masks, social distance, refrain from cheering, and go straight home afterward. No stopping off at the local izakaya for beer and skewers of grilled chicken.

With spectators from overseas ruled out months ago, there’s little business for hotels. Local sponsors have paid more than $3 billion to be involved, and some have complained about lost advertising possibilities. Others have expressed concern about being tied to an event that’s unpopular at home.

In perhaps a last-ditch effort to save some of the festive spirit, organizers said on June 22 they were looking into selling alcohol at the venues.

Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa indicated financial concerns were at play: Japanese brewer Asahi is one of the sponsors and has kicked millions into the local operating budget. But after immediate pushback, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto reversed the decision a day later.

“We decided as Tokyo 2020 not to sell alcoholic beverages and to ban drinking alcoholic beverages in the venues,” she said, and for athletes who might want a drink to celebrate have been told by organizers to “drink alone” in their rooms.

Alcohol is otherwise banned in the athletes’ village.

Details of the opening ceremony are always kept a secret. But this time the questions aren’t about which celebrity will light the cauldron but rather will athletes social distance and wear masks as they march through the venue? And how many will march at all?

One of the symbols of the celebratory atmosphere of the Olympics has long been its notorious policy of handing out condoms. At the games in Rio de Janeiro, officials distributed 450,000 through vending machines with signs that read, “Celebrate with a Condom.”

This time there will be 150,000 — but only given to athletes as they leave for home.

Source: Associate Press


Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
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

Details: https://tokyo2020.org/en/games/schedule/olympic/

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