The Olympic flame begins its last leg to Tokyo. Some recommend this present day ought to by no means have come

However the Grand Begin of the Olympic Torch Relay in Fukushima was closed to the general public on Thursday, as members of Japan’s ladies’s soccer group ready to kick off the flame’s 121-day home journey to Tokyo.

In February, the western Shimane prefecture even threatened to cancel torch relay occasions if coronavirus circumstances did not fall, in accordance to native media experiences, which mentioned a call can be made in April.
Final week, Olympic organizers mentioned the postponed 2020 Tokyo Video games, now scheduled for July 23 to August 8, would go forward with none abroad spectators. The Paralympics, from August 24 to September 5, would additionally not be welcoming touring followers, they mentioned.
A woman pushes a child in a stroller outside a torch relay venue in Naraha town, March 25.

With prices and logistical challenges mounting amid the pandemic, public help for the blockbuster sporting occasion has fallen to an all-time low in Japan. Earlier this 12 months, a ballot by public broadcaster NHK confirmed 77% of these surveyed need the Tokyo Video games both canceled or postponed additional.

Because the pandemic continues to roil the world and organizers grapple with the complexities of holding the mega sporting occasion later than deliberate, many are asking if the Olympics have misplaced their luster.

Tarnished spectacle

At its core, the trendy Olympics — first held in Athens in 1896 — symbolize peace, concord and solidarity between nations, in response to organizers, the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC).

However it will be exhausting to seek out an instance of an Olympic Video games free from political, financial or cultural scandal, in response to Lee Jung-woo, an knowledgeable on sports activities diplomacy and worldwide relations on the College of Edinburgh.

Lee cites as examples the Nazi propaganda-tarnished 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Mexico Metropolis in 1968, when the Video games adopted a navy bloodbath of unarmed civilians protesting in opposition to the occasion being held there.

10,000 torchbearers will help pass the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games torch around 47 prefectures until the torch arrives at the Tokyo stadium on July 23, 2021.
He additionally highlighted Montreal, the place taxpayers took three many years to repay the money owed for internet hosting the 1976 Summer season Video games.
Pandemic issues apart, Tokyo 2020 has additionally been hit by scandals, together with an allegedly plagiarized Olympic brand to the resignation of the organizing committee president over sexist feedback about ladies.

One other subject is that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — who resigned in August — initially meant to make use of the Olympics as a platform to construct his reelection marketing campaign, tainting the general public notion of the Video games from the beginning, in response to Simon Chadwick, director of Eurasian Sport at Emlyon Enterprise College in France.

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“I don’t think there was ever any popular consensus or agreement across Japan that the country needed to host the Olympic Games,”‘ he mentioned.

In Fukushima, emotions towards the Olympics are combined.

The relay is a second of private triumph for Takayuki Ueno, 46, a torchbearer from Minamisoma metropolis whose 8-year-old daughter, 3-year-old son, and oldsters died within the 2011 tsunami. “I am going to run with a smile, so that my parents and children that I lost won’t worry about me,” he mentioned.

Highschool scholar, Ryoji Sakuma, was solely capable of return to Katsurao village three years in the past when evacuation orders lifted. The 16-year-old torchbearer helps out on his household’s dairy farm and mentioned he needed to point out the world how a lot Fukushima had recovered, and that ,regardless of rumors, its produce is suitable for eating.

However Saki Ookawara, spokeswoman for a company that advocates for evacuees displaced by the nuclear meltdown, mentioned the federal government is utilizing the Olympics as a political software to point out Japan has overcome repercussions of the triple catastrophe, when that’s not strictly the case.

Though many communities have rebuilt, there are as many as 35,703 nuclear evacuees nonetheless unable to return to their houses in Fukushima prefecture as of this month, in response to the native authorities. “I don’t understand why Japan is hosting an Olympics when the nuclear disaster has not been fully resolved,” mentioned Ookawara.

Highlight on Japan

All the symbolism of the Olympics and torch relay has modified amid the pandemic, in response to Barbara Holthus, deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Research.

“The original idea for Tokyo was to show the world how cool Japan is — it was an opportunity for the country to reimagine itself and to come together as one. Forty million visitors were expected to visit Japan in 2020 to give the country an economic boost — but none of that is happening. The Olympics are failing in all instances,” mentioned Holthus.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are already the costliest Summer season Video games ever, with the one-year postponement of the occasion pushing the associated fee up at the very least $15 billion to whole $25 billion, in accordance to Japanese media experiences.

Pulling off the world’s most advanced sporting occasion, involving greater than 11,000 athletes from over 200 nations who should be saved secure, will even be no straightforward feat.

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Organizers are actually racing to find out how Tokyo can stage the occasion safely, particularly contemplating the capital solely lifted its third state of emergency on Monday following a 3rd wave of infections.

Authorities should work out tips on how to shield not solely athletes, but additionally residents of the world’s most populous metropolitan space, a frightening process contemplating Japan’s big aged inhabitants and its slower-than-expected rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

Ayako Kajiwara, a nurse who works in a hospital close to Tokyo, mentioned she hoped vaccinations can be sped up within the nation to raised shield the inhabitants. “Some people in Japan think the Games should be canceled (but) others have already bought tickets for events,” she mentioned.

“For me, the Olympics represents the idea of the world coming together and I’d like to have some hope. I worry what will happen if it doesn’t go ahead as the taxpayers might bear the burden,” she added.

As Tokyo 2020 would be the first mega sporting occasion held in the course of the pandemic, the well being and security measures applied — whether or not profitable or not — may function helpful markers for future worldwide sporting competitions.

“In that sense, Tokyo’s anti-coronavirus programme would be marked as a long-lasting legacy of this Olympic Games,” mentioned Lee.

Olympic legacy

Essentially the most profitable Video games are these designed to depart behind a constructive legacy, in response to Chadwick, the sports activities enterprise knowledgeable.

As an example, the Barcelona Summer season Video games in 1992 spurred the town’s city regeneration as the reworking of the waterfront growth of the Olympic Village and harbor made seashores accessible to the general public. Subway methods had been prolonged and roads connecting the town had been turbocharged, in response to a report printed within the journal Surroundings and Planning.

Equally, 9 years after internet hosting the 2012 Olympics, London has managed to attract enterprise and guests to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park — a former post-industrial district within the east of the British capital.

Lee, the sports activities diplomacy knowledgeable, mentioned the 2024 Summer season Video games in Paris adopted by the Los Angeles Video games in 2028 present Western democracies nonetheless wish to host the Olympics.

Nevertheless, as host nations and their populations issue within the excessive financial and environmental prices of the Olympics, it’s authoritarian regimes which have embraced the Video games as a soft-power software.

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“Non-liberal emerging powers tend to stage the Olympics at all costs in order to impress world audiences,” mentioned Lee.

As an example, China had by no means hosted the Olympics previous to 2008. However some 14 years after internet hosting its inaugural Summer season Olympics, Beijing will turn out to be the primary metropolis to stage each Summer season and Winter editions of the Video games, in February 2022 — an occasion, if profitable, that might validate its authoritarian system, in response to observers.

Future Video games

In 2019, the IOC mapped out new guidelines that may require future bidders for Olympic host metropolis to win a referendum at dwelling earlier than coming into the race.

That transfer aimed to chop again on costly bidding races and stop wasteful “white-elephant” tasks that break the bank to construct however serve little objective in the long term.

As an example, Beijing’s well-known “Bird’s Nest” stadium, constructed for the 2008 Video games at a value of $460 million, shouldn’t be broadly used at the moment.

The rule modifications can also pave the way in which for smaller cities to affix the bidding for host metropolis, Lee mentioned.

The IOC’s alternative of Brisbane, provincial capital of Australia’s Queensland, as “preferred host” for the 2032 Summer season Video games, exhibits the route of the Olympics has already shifted, in response to Lee.

Lee mentioned the IOC picked Brisbane as a result of the town had already hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Video games collectively with the Gold Coast, additionally in Queensland. “This means that Brisbane does not have to build new sporting facilities and athlete villages. This would make the Olympic Games in Brisbane a more sustainable choice than any other candidate cities for the 2032 Olympics,” Lee mentioned.

Moreover, Australia is likely one of the few Covid-safe nations on the earth now, and this example could have added a extra aggressive edge to Brisbane’s Olympic marketing campaign, he mentioned.

Again close to Tokyo, Kajiwara, the nurse, mentioned final 12 months she utilized for a lottery, which coated 10 sports activities resembling basketball, soccer, rhythmic gymnastics and observe. She received a coveted ticket to look at the boys’s 100-meter last. She simply hopes she will nonetheless go.

CNN’s James Griffiths, Selina Wang and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report from Hong Kong and Tokyo.