On August 24, less than one half year from now, the curtain will rise on the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The threat posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is not gone, but we know far more about the virus today than we did one year ago.
Sports venues now have a proven track record of taking stringent infection prevention measures so as to guarantee the safety of athletes and large events have been held with spectators in attendance.
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons has said that holding the event amidst these difficult times will be a beneficial force for change, not just for Japanese society, but also the world as a whole.
Let’s remain positive about the Summer Games in Tokyo. We should be thinking about more than just the risk factors for the spread of COVID-19. We should also think of the Games as offering hope as a catalyst for getting society and the economy back on the right track.
According to the most recent public opinion survey conducted by The Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network (FNN), more than 28 percent of respondents believe the “We can hold these events on schedule with thorough infection prevention measures in place.” That represents an increase of 12.5 percentage points from the answers to the same question in the last poll.
The latest declaration of a state of emergency has contained the spread of COVID-19 and vaccinations have begun. Conditions now look promising for holding a successful Summer Games.
The Paralympic events are divided into small categories to account for differing degrees of disability. In normal times an expert committee certifies an athlete as being qualified to participate in international competitive events.
However, COVID-19 put a stop to many international events. And reportedly there are still athletes who have not yet been able to receive accreditation, although they have been unofficially accepted for their national team or are candidates for a spot to compete in Tokyo.
There are also athletes who require the use of ventilators or who have immune system problems. The Olympic Organizing Committee (IOC) and IPC are urged to consider relaxing conditions for participation and other special measures, and to remain particularly vigilant in terms of COVID-19 prevention measures.
Criticizing athletes who want the Summer Games to go ahead as “selfish” and “self-indulgent” is petty. As ace men’s visually impaired swimmer Keiichi Kimura, who is already certified to represent Japan in the Paralympics notes, “The effort we have put in to participate has been roughly equal to the effort people have made to contain the virus.”
He adds, “The efforts we are making to participate are also efforts to ensure society is headed in the right direction.”
Whether or not Japan is able to hold the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the country will not be able to restore normal social and economic conditions unless COVID-19 is brought under control.
In that sense, the efforts of everyone in Japan to contain the virus and end the pandemic and the efforts of the athletes who are going all out in preparation for this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics are heading in exactly the same direction.
(Read the Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese at this link.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun