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Why Canceling the Olympics will Hurt Japan

Japan has much more to lose than money. The international trust in Japan and the Japanese people will be hard to regain once lost.

Rui Abiru

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Calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics have gained much ground in the Diet and the media, especially among the leftists and liberals. 

At a meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labor, and Welfare on June 1, Sakura Uchikoshi of the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) pressed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to cancel the Olympics, claiming that the public see canceling the Games as the obvious decision. 

Kazunori Yamanoi of the CDP also stressed at a meeting of the House of Representatives Health and Labor Committee on May 28 that the Tokyo Olympics is “at risk of becoming a historic catastrophe.”

But the party crossed a line when CDP leader Yukio Edano, during an online broadcast on May 9, said that the Olympics would become like “an exhibition of the world’s mutant strains.”

The leader of the main opposition party, who professes to be ready to become the next prime minister, should not be making such discriminatory statements, as if to say that all foreigners are infected with mutant strains. Exactly how helpful does he think he’s being by stirring up public anxiety?

As explained by Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on a Nippon Television program on May 29, the opportunity for athletes and staff entering Japan to spread the virus in Tokyo will be very limited.

Taisuke Nakata, an associate professor of economics at the University of Tokyo, and Daisuke Fujii, a project lecturer on the same faculty, have forecast that if 105,000 people enter Japan and the vaccination rate is 50%, the estimated average number of new cases in Tokyo would only increase by about 15 people per week, while the number of serious cases would increase by one person per week.

So, even though vaccine rollout has already begun, why are prospects for the Tokyo Olympics met with resounding criticism? It indicates an ulterior political motive behind pressures to cancel the Olympics, namely to inflict serious damage on the Suga administration.

But such schemes to gain an advantage in the general election will rob the Japanese people of a once-in-a-lifetime event and the athletes of their lifelong dream. 

That does not even begin to mention the huge economic losses that would be inflicted on Japan.

No, Japan has much more to lose than money. The international trust in Japan and the Japanese people will be hard to regain once lost.

On 31 May, a member of the Australian softball team was interviewed on TV before heading to their pre-games training camp. She said, “I hope the Japanese people will give us a warm welcome.”

Japan chose to bid for the Olympics and won with promises of omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality. If Japan shirks the responsibility it took upon itself, the Olympics would never be hosted by a Japanese city again. It is no wonder that Japan is still perceived as an exclusionist country that shuns foreigners.

PM Suga says that the Olympics “should prove humanity’s victory over COVID-19.” Asking for the contrary would be like engraving Tokyo with humanity’s defeat against the pandemic. 

Japan’s international reputation will undoubtedly suffer if it claims it cannot host the Olympics, despite having the lowest number of positive cases among the G7 countries and other major countries. 

The government has billed the Tokyo Olympics as “the Recovery and Reconstruction Games” to show the world Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake. But such efforts will go down the drain if Japan cannot demonstrate how much it has recovered by actually hosting the Olympics.

A Wall Street Journal editorial on 28 May argued that “the failure of the Tokyo Olympics would be a propaganda coup for Beijing.” 

If the Tokyo Olympics is canceled but the Beijing Winter Olympics is held next year, it would give an authoritarian country the chance to tout its superiority over democracy.

And Japan must not let its decisions become a reason for tyranny to mock democracy. 

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(Find access to The Sankei Shimbun column in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Rui Abiru, editorial writer and political section editorial staff member