The Olympics Are On! But Why?

The Japanese government is dead-set on holding the Games despite the pandemic.

By Koichi Nakano. Mr. Nakano is a political scientist. March 25, 2021, NYT:

“TOKYO — The torch relay run that has opened the Olympics since 1936 started on Thursday from Fukushima, Japan, delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Games will be held this summer, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Sunday, “as a proof of humanity’s victory over the novel coronavirus” — even though there is no sign that Japan, let alone humanity, will defeat the coronavirus any time soon.

Japan has fared better than the United States and many European countries — with about 450,000 cases of infection and about 8,900 deaths, for a population of about 125 million. But infection rates are creeping up, and the vaccine rollout has been painfully slow.

As of March 21, Japan ranked last for inoculations per capita among the 37 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; just 0.3 percent of the population has received a shot, according to Bloomberg. There is virtually no chance that Japanese people will be vaccinated in large enough numbers by the time the Olympics are supposed to start in late July.

Last week, Japan announced that spectators from overseas would be barred from attending the Games. The decision appears to have been partly a concession to public opinion: In one survey early this month, 77 percent of respondents opposed allowing foreign fans. According to another poll, only 9 percent of respondents said the Games should proceed as scheduled; 32 percent said they should be canceled.”