Covid-19: will the Tokyo Olympics be canceled?

► What is the health situation in Japan?

Since the beginning of the month, the country has been facing a fourth wave of Covid-19. On May 28, Japan extended the state of emergency, already in place in 10 of the 47 departments, until June 20. “The number of new cases has declined (…) but the situation continues to be uncertain “, said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. In total, the archipelago recorded 720,000 contaminations and 12,700 deaths, for 126 million inhabitants. Of course, compared to that of Europe and the United States, the results are far from alarming.

→ READ. Covid-19: dark clouds are gathering over the Tokyo Olympics

But, in September 2020, when Yoshihide Suga came to power, Japan seemed to have handled the epidemic relatively well and had 1,500 dead, explains Céline Pajon, researcher at the Asia Center of IFRI. He chose to stimulate economic growth, by encouraging local tourism, which must have favored the resumption of the epidemic. “.

According to the specialist from Japan, there is poor coordination between the central government and local authorities. As a result, regional disparities in terms of hospital capacity create “Situations of congestion in the intensive care units, as in the region of Osaka where they are overwhelmed”. The very slow start of the vaccination campaign (about 2% of the vaccinated population) adds to strong criticism from the opposition and public opinion, who especially denounce the maintenance of the Tokyo Olympics.

► Can the Tokyo 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games still be canceled?

This is what 80% of Japanese want, according to a latest survey. May 26, the great Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, a partner of the Games, called on the Prime Minister to cancel the event, a “Health threat”. The population fears that the arrival of 78,000 athletes, coaches, delegations and foreign media will worsen the situation. Several local athletes have also expressed their fear.

→ CASE OF CONSCIOUSNESS. Should we maintain the Tokyo Olympics?

Aware of the concerns of his fellow citizens, Yoshihide Suga ensured the preparation of “Safe and secure games”. For Céline Pajon, “The government’s line has always been to maintain the Olympics, and it’s a bit late to go back. “

“Everything will depend on how the crisis is managed over the next few days”, adds Guibourg Delamotte, lecturer at Inalco. It also notes a difference in assessment: “If the organizing committee of the Olympics is based on international comparisons, there is no reason to say that the epidemic in Japan is out of control. Especially since the director of the Japanese committee recently ruled out any cancellation of the Games.

In reality, the decision to cancel the Olympics rests with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Last week, its vice president said they would take place, even if Tokyo was in a state of emergency during the event.

► What would be the consequences of such a cancellation?

According to a study by the Nomura research institute, cited by the journal The team, to strike the Tokyo Olympics off the calendar would cost $ 17 billion. Financially, the sums committed for this event reached a record. Particularly because of its first postponement, last year.

→ EXPLANATION. Why keep the Tokyo Olympics without foreign spectators?

If Japan unilaterally decides to cancel the most expensive Summer Games in history, the country “Would depart from the conditions of the contract which binds him with the IOC and would be responsible for all of the colossal financial losses”, specifies the specialist of Japan Guibourg Delamotte.

For Japan, a further postponement would be an admission of failure and “Would probably tarnish his image”, says Céline Pajon. For the researcher, the country is stuck between a rock and a hard place. In addition to financial compensation, canceling the Games would make him lose face, she analyzes. But maintaining them will not satisfy public opinion, nor the athletes. , deprived of foreign spectators and perhaps soon of spectators at all.


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