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Olympia, pandemic and politics: there is no separation


TOKYO (AP) – Again and again, year after year, the stewards of the Olympic Games say: The Games shouldn’t be political. But how do you avoid politics when trying to pull off an event of this complexity during a deadly and protracted pandemic?


– The Japanese medical community largely opposes these Olympics; The government’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Shigeru Omi has said it is “abnormal” to be held during a pandemic.

– The medical journals The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine have raised questions about the risks, with the former criticizing the World Health Organization for failing to take a clear position and the latter saying the IOC’s decision to proceed was “not from the.” best scientific evidence “shaped evidence.”

– The second largest newspaper in Japan, Asahi Shimbun, has called for the Olympic Games to be canceled. Other regional newspapers too.

– There is a risk that the Olympic Games will spread variant strains, especially after two members of the Ugandan delegation with the Delta variant were discovered.

Yet they go ahead; The opening ceremony is Friday. So how did the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga overcome strong opposition?

In essence: the “host city contract”, which grants the IOC the sole power of termination. Should Japan cancel, it would have to compensate the IOC. And billions are at stake. Japan has officially spent $ 15.4 billion, but government audits suggest it is double that. Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Inc., a major player in the 2013 corrupt bid, raised more than $ 3 billion from local sponsors.

Estimates suggest that a cancellation – highly unlikely at this point less than 48 hours before opening – could cost the IOC up to $ 4 billion in rights revenue. Broadcasting and sponsorships account for 91% of the IOC’s income, and the American network NBCUniversal provides around 40% of the IOC’s total income.

The Associated Press looked for perspectives inside and outside Japan on the policy of doing so.


KOICHI NAKANO, Political Scientist, Sophia University:

“It’s a bit like a player who has already lost too much. Exiting now will only confirm the huge losses, but you can still hold on to the hope of winning big and getting it all back. (Suga) might as well take the chance and hope for the best by moving on. At least there is some chance he can claim the Games are a success – just by doing it – and saturating the media with pride and fame could help him reverse that negative opinion. “


MARK CONRAD, Attorney at Law, Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University:

“The IOC has a strong brand. Athletes from all over the world coming together to compete in peace is a heart draw. It takes an entertainment event and gives it a measure of piety and awe. Who is against peace? With this “Olympism” as its goal, it has grabbed corporate sponsors who are willing to pay a lot of money. Hence, the IOC has the ability to set very favorable terms of the contract, and it certainly has in this case. The fact that only the IOC can formally decide to pull the plug on the games – even in the event of unforeseeable health events – testifies to this. “


HELEN JEFFERSON LENSKYI, sociologist, author, “The Olympic Games: A Critical Approach”:

“The host city treaty gives all power to the IOC. The Olympic industry has had over 120 years to win hearts and minds around the world, with evident success. In the age of the internet, your PR controls the message and protects the brand around the clock. The IOC is also beyond the reach of any regulatory agency, including host country governments. It can violate the protection of the human rights of a country with immunity, including the right of athletes to have access to national courts. “


AKI TONAMI, Political Scientist, Tsukuba University:

“Based on what I hear, the people within the government have received their orders to run the Games and that’s their only focus right now – for better or for worse. They hope to get through the games with as few missteps as possible. Politicians may be aware of the risk they are taking, but hope that once the Games have started, the Japanese public will hold out “for the good of Japan” and forget how we got there. “


JOHN HORNE, Sociologist, Waseda University, co-author with Garry Whannel of “Understanding the Olympics”:

“The IOC is an elitist club that has the support of other elites and people – and countries – who want to join the elite. From an athletic perspective, the IOC is the custodian of the exclusive medals that athletes in numerous sports seek, acts as the primary promoter of the mythology of the healing powers of sport, and is the organization that most international sports federations and national Olympic committees rely on for funding. “


GILL STEEL, Political Scientist, Doshisha University:

“Politically, the opposition is so weak that the government can do pretty much anything it wants. Although a disastrous Olympics would damage the LDP’s credibility, the party is likely to feel safe because the majority of the public has doubts about the opposition’s ability to govern. The government may be hoping that once the Games have started, public opinion will turn – at least, which creates a distraction, and at most perhaps a rally round-the-flag effect. “


ROBERT WHITING, author of several books on Japan, including the latest “Tokyo Junkie”:

“You can tell that nobody is in charge. You have all of these different entities: the Tokyo Organizing Committee; the Japanese Olympic Committee; the Prime Minister’s Office; the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike; the Japanese Sports Agency; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Suga is asked in the state parliament (Japanese parliament) about the cancellation of the games and says that this is not his responsibility. Nobody wants to lose face. “


DAVID LEHENY, Political Scientist, Waseda University:

“A lot of the opponents are superficial and agile, but of course that depends on the Olympics actually working. There will be a ton of people (broadcasters etc) investing in trying to make it look like a good show, so I think they will have the wind on their backs if there isn’t a noticeable spike in COVID deaths or deaths Heat there. associated tragedies for the athletes. “


RYU HOMMA, author and former managing director of an advertising agency:

“If it turns out that there is a surge in coronavirus patients and there is a disaster, it is not the responsibility of the IOC. It is the Japanese government that is responsible. “


Associated Press reporter Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report. More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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