Tokyo Has Record Surge of Covid-19 Cases, but Olympics Will Go On

Tokyo Has Record Surge of Covid-19 Cases, but Olympics Will Go On
Photo: Koji Sasahara, AP

The Tokyo Olympics are shaping up to be the disaster that its many critics have long predicted, and they will nonetheless go on, despite a record surge in covid-19 cases. On Tuesday, the local government reported an all-time one-day high of 2,848 new cases in the city. Amongst infected people, 82 are reported seriously ill, a high since May.

The world must have speed climbing and medals, maybe. Or this thing is way too god damn expensive to cancel at this point.

NBC News reports that in a press conference on Tuesday, Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced that he’s unconcerned because the “flow of people” is decreasing. “First of all, thanks to the restrictions on vehicles, and through measures such as remote-working, with the cooperation of the public, the flow of people has been decreasing,” he’s quoted as saying. “Because the flow of people is decreasing, we’re not worried.”

Suga defended the decision last week, arguing that quitting is too easy and that the “government’s role is to take on challenges.” Back in May, when 59% of Japanese citizens wanted the Olympics cancelled, Reuters reported that Suga said he never “put the Olympics first,” without entertaining the idea of cancellation. During Japan’s record surge in January that prompted a state of emergency, Suga said that he was “determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus.”

Residents, Japanese media, and world leaders have long called on Suga to cancel the games, a question which was up in the air until the last minute, even as recently as last week. The BBC reported just six days ago — two days before the games began — that the Tokyo 2020 organising committee head was willing to cancel if cases spike. He said they “will think about what we should do when the situation [a case surge] arises.”

Despite mandatory quarantine and extensive safety measures for participants, the Tokyo organising committee reported that 153 people involved with the Olympics tested positive as of July 25th, including 19 athletes and team officials. NBC reports that today they added two more cases to the overall count.

The doomed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, already put off by a year, are now running a multi-billion dollar tab for an event that’s unlikely to pay itself off in full. The Wall Street Journal has reported that government auditors estimate costs of over $US20 ($27) billion, making them the most expensive games ever, while ticket holders want their money back.

Historically, the Olympics have run over budget, driven cities into debt, and left behind massive, barren facilities requiring expensive upkeep. Over several years, Tokyo tore down its old Olympics stadium and built a new one (partly to accommodate more attendees, unfortunately), has constructed an aquatics centre, a temporary skate park, and an over 5,000 square foot village structure on a peninsula. It plans to repurpose all but the skate park.

According to NBC News, Tokyo governor Yukio Koike told reporters that hospitals have run low on beds, and the city has ordered them to add more.

Closing ceremonies are on August 8th.