Officials have continued to promise that the Tokyo Olympics will take place as planned. However, it was announced on Saturday that foreign spectators would not be allowed to come to Japan.
The decision comes as the country and organizers factor the COVID-19 pandemic and make concessions in order to hold the Olympic Games as planned. The decision was one that many in Japan already expected, and it was made jointly by the Tokyo organizers, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee, and the government of Japan.
However, despite the announcement, the Japanese public is still not content with hosting the games. According to polls, as much as 80 percent of the Japanese public wants the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed or cancelled, with demonstrators taking to the streets on recent days. This is a far contrast from a few years ago when the public was mostly excited about the games. Locals are also worried because, despite the lack of foreign tourists, thousands of athletes and coaches will be coming to Japan. The IOC has been encouraging the organizing committees to secure enough vaccines for athletes, and China has offered to help and give vaccines to those requiring one.
The Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for 2020, will now take place in July 2021. Another issue is that local spectators will not be fully vaccinated by the time of the Olympics. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been comparatively slow. The first batches arrived in February, and the plan was to start inoculating health workers. The next group of people to receive the vaccine will be the elderly (those aged 65 or older), but that will start on April 12. With the Olympics just around the corner, it’s unlikely that everyone will receive the vaccine by July.
An Oxford study published in September, 2020 also estimated that the Tokyo Olympics had already cost $15.84 billion USD, making them the most expensive Summer Olympics on record. Tokyo had invested a lot in the required venues and in renovating subway and train stations to make the Games more enjoyable to the multitudes of tourists they had been expecting. Without the money from tourism, the Games will be a financial disaster for Tokyo.
The decision to not postpone the games will also have a severe effect on hotels that had decided to open or revamp their interiors to accommodate the influx of tourists. New hotels that opened in Tokyo in time for the Olympics include big names like Four Seasons Otemachi, The Tokyo EDITION, and Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo. Hotels that had closed down in order to be rebuilt from scratch include The Okura Tokyo, and The Kitano Hotel Tokyo. At first, Tokyo had faced issues related to lack of rooms for the Olympics, now the problem can be an excess of empty rooms unless many locals who get tickets decide to book hotels rooms as well.
Since 10 to 20 percent of Olympic tickets were designated for international spectators, now locals have higher chances to see the games. However, officials still need to consider how many spectators they will allow in each venue, and organizers will have to refund the 600,000 tickets overseas buyers purchased for the Olympics and 30,000 for the Paralympics. A total of 7.8 million tickets had been available for the games.
Now Tokyo’s last remaining hope is that the Games, amidst the havoc and sombreness the COVID-19 pandemic have caused, will create enough enthusiasm so people decide to add Japan to the places they will visit after the pandemic. For now, though, the mood is Tokyo is one of helplessness.