Will Tokyo 2020 Happen Next Year?

The message from leadership seems to say so.

The Tokyo 2020 Games have been stuck in limbo for the past several months. With everything going on in the world, the Summer Games are rarely at the forefront of most peoples’ minds. But for athletes, organisers and those covering the leadup to the event, the uncertainty is palpable. I’ve personally had to go on a little break from writing about Tokyo 2020, due to the letdown of the delay. While it may feel like no progress has actually occurred since the announcement of the delay in March, some major happenings have recently sparked some conversations. Here is the latest news that relates to whether Tokyo 2020 will actually happen.

Bye Bye Shinzo

Shinzo Abe removing his mask to speak at a conference back in May. ©Copyright Sadayuki Goto/AP

The biggest news as of late is the departure of Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister. He decided to step down from his position early due to his failing health. Of course this news far exceeds simply the operation of the upcoming Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, but it does certainly impact Tokyo 2020 directly. Shinzo Abe is one of the biggest supporters of Japan hosting the Summer Games, and has been since his second go around in office.

Winning the election in 2012, Abe was quick to voice his desire to host a future Olympic Games, and was more than pleased when Japan won the bid the following year. Not only is there a professional connection to the games, but Abe has a personal one as well. His family has historical ties to the games, with his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, another former Prime Minister of Japan, being very much responsible for the organisation leading up to the 1964 Tokyo Games. It was a connection to his lineage, and would forever connect him to his grandfather.

The Tokyo 2020 Games weren't just a way for Abe to create this bond to his past, but also represented as a spotlight of sorts. Many saw the games as the farewell stage for Japan’s longest serving prime minister. Now with the surprise news of Shinzo Abe stepping down, there are questions of whether the incoming prime minister will be as adamant on hosting Tokyo 2020.

There are currently three main candidates to become the next Prime Minister of Japan. Those are: Shigeru Ishiba, Yoshihide Suga and Fumio Kishida. Right now, all signs are pointing towards Suga winning the Liberal Democratic Party leadership. Many believe Suga is an extension of Abe, being very similar in many aspects, thus it is assumed his stance on hosting Tokyo 2020 will not differ from the current position.

The First Covid-19 Procedure Meeting

A panel of Japanese officials held their first meeting September 4th in regards to how to combat the presence of Covid-19. They went into the meeting with the assumption that the Novel Coronavirus will still very much be active during next year’s Summer Games. It was led by Kazuhiro Sugita, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, and contained a mixture of government officials and Tokyo 2020 organisers.

©CarlCourt via gettyimages

There were three main areas of focus discussed in the meeting: easing access and transporting athletes, securing the athletes safety at the athlete’s village and in venues, and finally the major issue surrounding spectators. The answer seems rather straight forward for some issues, but others are simply impossible to decipher at the moment.

In the case of the athletes themselves, they are looking to allow the participating athletes to possibly skip self isolation provided they come with proper paper work. Other ideas like tracking athletes movement via technology were floated around. Bracelets with contact tracing, similar to what the NFL employees have been discussed.

The International Olympic Committee itself is set to have an internal meeting to discuss possible countermeasures for both Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 in the upcoming weeks. They stated their goal was to make safe and fair decisions for all participants involved, but the actual itinerary for the meeting is unknown.

Strong Messages From Leadership

Despite recent polls that suggest many doubt that the games will be held from both the Japanese general public and the companies sponsoring the event, messages from leadership as of late has been quite strong.

There will be a Tokyo 2020 Games. At least in some capacity.

Of course it is hard to take this as absolute, since we heard in late February and early March a similar sentiment being echoed among Japanese leadership. However, these messages are not only coming from Japanese officials, but interntationally as well. Most recently John Coates, Australian Olympic Committee head honcho and the chair of the IOC’s Co-Ordination Committee, came out with a bold statement.

John Coates the boss of Australian Olympic Committee and the chair of the IOC’s Co-Ordination Committee. Photo via theaustralian.com

“It will take place with or without COVID,” he stated on Monday. Elaborating with, “The Games will start July 23rd next year.”

We’ve also seen more resolute tones from Japanese officials as well. This could be due to a number of reasons. The first being, the initial fears of the outbreak have somewhat calmed down domestically, with Japan’s second wave starting to slow down, and secondly the operation of professional sports leagues within Japan. We’ve seen the Nippon Baseball League allow for fans to attend games in a limited capacity, with no major clusters emerging from this decision.

Seiko Hashimoto delivering a speech on the state of Tokyo 2020. ©EPA

Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto echoed Coates remarks, with her reportedly telling Sankei News, “I feel we have to hold them no matter what.”

Her absolutism was criticized by many, but it needs to be taken into context. She wasn’t saying that a full scale Olympic and Paralympic Games needs to occur at the expense of public health and safety, but rather that it’s owed to the athletes, sponsors and those involved, that some form of competition will occur.

So while no one can say for certain whether the games will truly go ahead, more and more people are being positive as of late. Time time has allowed for those in charge to analyze the reality of Covid-19. All we can do now is wait to see what further developments are in store, but as of now things are looking optimistic.

If you wish to contact me, you can reach me at Shotarohmoore@hotmail.com

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com

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