As the summer progresses toward July 23, there is no good news, only optimism and warnings as Japan dreads 10s of thousands of invaders descending on Tokyo in what seems like all intent and purposes like a hostile invasion.
The only stories one reads in Japan about the Olympics themselves are those complaining about it, and those defending it, saying it “won’t be that bad,” and regardless of the human cost, “we can’t afford to lose it.”
All of the external bullshit once considered necessary newsworthy components, Japan’s 144-day maniacal revisioning of Nazi-Germany’s Olympic torch relay, the big events, the celebrations? Endless upbeat stories about Japan’s athletes? All that news has disappeared.
If you don’t look at the Tokyo Olympic homepage, you wouldn’t know the torch relay is still going on. News outlets have gotten bored with it, only doing stories when towns, cities and prefectures tell the Olympic organizers they don’t want it on their doorstep.
This week President Joe Biden endorsed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s plan for a safe Olympics. That plan can be summarized as follows: 1) Have the Olympics. 2) Say they’re going to be safe, despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of Japanese residents have been vaccinated. 3) Deal with the consequences afterward.
I doubt the president’s staff actually looked into the situation, because really endorsing it would be like putting a Good Housekeeping seal for cleanliness on a prison’s gas chamber.
Until February, when there were questions about whether Tokyo would actually hold the Olympics and not close its borders to Olympians, the International Olympic Committee was working overtime to find a safe way to hold them and was actually doing research to develop best practices. But by April, the actionable plans began to be ridiculed as inadequate by epidemiologists and FINA, the international aquatics federation, which wanted to pull all its final Olympic qualifiers out of Tokyo.
As planning progressed, the ability of Japan to hold safe sporting events with crowds was touted as part of the evidence that the games could be done the right way.
While shouting to everyone that will listen that the games will be safe, IOC President Thomas Bach has twice put off scheduled trips to Japan because, well, it’s not safe. “No corners will be cut,” he said as the IOC has now decided that corners can safely be cut because Japan won’t back out.
In parts of Japan this weekend, baseball games were once more held behind closed doors, because well, it has been considered the best practice. But although organizers have technically not ruled out holding events behind closed doors, Suga has reportedly made up his mind that fans will be in the stands.
“The Olympics will be held even if Tokyo is under a state of emergency,” Australian IOC member John Coates said.
It’s like watching “A Bridge Too Far” over and over on a loop. We keep seeing the same blind optimism and foreshadowing over and over until nothing is news anymore. This movie, of course, would be named “Operation Olympic,” which was also the name of the planned first phase of a U.S.-led invasion of southern Kyushu 76 years ago.
Unfortunately for this year, the Japanese government shows no sign of surrendering, of abandoning this monumental disaster, and instead is committed to fighting on, regardless of the cost in human lives.
The best thing that can be said for it is this year’s late summer disaster movie is that there is no guarantee it will in fact be a disaster.