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Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus

Those 2020 Tokyo Olympics should never take place, if not a gigantic PR operation by PM Abe and its government in their efforts to whitewash and normalize the ongoing Fukushima disaster in the eyes of the whole world…

 

tepco_2020_olympicsBye-bye Tokyo 2020 radioactive-coronovirus Olympics

 

Report: Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound tells USA Today “the Games are not going to start on July 24.”

March 23, 202

Huge numbers of sporting events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. And now it looks like the granddaddy of global sporting events, the Tokyo Olympic Games, set for this summer, will join them. On Monday, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed, likely to 2021.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.” Details are yet to be worked out, the newspaper reported.

When asked if Pound was speaking officially for the IOC, the organization replied only that, “It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC EB which was announced yesterday.”  The decision referred to is the IOC announcement that it will study different scenarios regarding the future of the 2020 Games. That statement goes on to say the group will finalize discussions within four weeks, and that cancelation is “not on the agenda.”

While the Olympics have been canceled in the past, for World War I and World War II, they have never been postponed to a different year.

Also on Monday, Reuters reported that Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said he was considering postponement, reflecting the most recent comments from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. US President Donald Trump tweeted that he will back whatever decision Abe makes: “We will be guided by the wishes of Prime Minister Abe of Japan.”

Even if the event were to take place as scheduled, Canadian and Australian athletes wouldn’t compete. On March 22, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced that their teams won’t head to Tokyo and urged that competition be postponed for one year. The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board also unanimously agreed not to send a team and encouraged athletes to instead prepare for a summer 2021 event.

And on March 20, USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming, sent a letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee urging the group to postpone the Summer Games to 2021.

The virus came close to the Olympics on March 19, when it was announced that Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, 82, attended a March 10 meeting with Kozo Tashima, the deputy head of the Japanese Olympic Committee who later tested positive for coronavirus. Mori has no symptoms and hasn’t been tested. The men were seated about 10 meters (about 32 feet) apart.

The Olympics are huge, both in numbers of people involved, and in billions of dollars spent. More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations are hoping to compete in 339 events. Many thousands more are planning to work in some part of the games, from food and souvenir vendors to hotel clerks to trainers and coaches. NBC had been set to broadcast the games in the US, even offering a dedicated streaming Olympics package for those who want to watch as much as possible, with no ads. And as evidenced by the fact that tickets sold out last July, thousands more were planning to watch the events, whether traveling from across town or across the planet.

The 1916 Summer Games were canceled due to World War I. The 1940 and 1944 Games, both winter and summer, were canceled due to World War II. (Japan was the country affected back then, too — the 1940 Games were set for Tokyo and Sapporo.) Other games have been affected by boycotts. By contrast, in 2016, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, played out as scheduled despite scientists’ warnings about the Zika virus.

The next Olympics after Tokyo are the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, followed by the 2024 Paris Summer Games, and then the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy.

https://www.cnet.com/news/report-tokyo-2020-olympics-postponed-to-2021-due-to-coronavirus/?fbclid=IwAR30Cwk5A9Fux51OlK_jSJlS538PNHWQeDd8COtCtVZfvCmSQ4v5XHT0l4A#ftag=COS-05-10aaa0i

 

PM Abe says Tokyo Olympics cannot be held under current circumstances

March 23, 202

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday this summer’s Tokyo Olympics cannot be held under current circumstances due to the new coronavirus pandemic, suggesting for the first time that the games may have to be postponed.

“If I’m asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition,” Abe told a parliamentary session, adding he hopes to hold talks with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach over the issue.

“It’s important that not only our country but also all the other participating countries can take part in the games fully prepared,” Abe said.

The premier’s comments came a day after the IOC said it will study alternative plans for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 24, amid the global outbreak, and make an assessment within the next four weeks.

The Japanese government will soon tell the IOC it will accept a postponement if the organization decides on it as a precaution against the coronavirus, a source familiar with the plan said.

Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said he supports the IOC’s decision to review existing plans, adding representatives from Japan and the IOC will hold discussions to examine possible scenarios closely.

“Japan is in a critical state, and the situations in the United States and Europe have been abnormal,” Mori said. “We are not so foolish as to say we will do it under our first (plan).”

Abe, who has previously said he aims to hold the major sporting event in its “complete form,” told the parliamentary session, “If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way, we have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority to (the health of the) athletes.”

“Although the IOC will make the final decision (on the matter), we are of the same view that cancellation is not an option,” Abe said while vowing to work closely with the IOC and the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The IOC on Sunday officially admitted the possibility of pushing back the quadrennial event, saying it will examine various scenarios, adding that it will finalize discussions “within the next four weeks.”

“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the games,” the IOC said in a statement.

Speaking at a press conference, organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said reviewing the possibilities, including postponement, is “not easy” and the organizers are open to “all options.”

Mori said some of the challenges organizers will face in terms of postponement include handling the costs of delaying and the availability of venues.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters, “(The IOC) clearly stated that cancellation will not happen, and I am glad to share that view.”

“There are lots of issues, but I would like to discuss possible scenarios over the next four weeks with the IOC and the organizing committee,” she said. “The Tokyo Games now have another goal, to defeat the novel coronavirus.”

Mori said local organizers will decide in the coming days whether to go ahead with the opening of the domestic leg of the torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday, as developments surrounding the pandemic have been changing rapidly.

Mori added that Bach told him that the Japanese organizers have the authority to make decisions about the domestic leg of the torch relay.

Members of the organizing committee revealed Monday they may drastically reduce the scale of the torch relay, including canceling the participation of members of the public.

Under modified plans, the Olympic flame may be carried by car in the initial stages of the relay.

Muto and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto each said Monday the relay will proceed as planned for the moment.

Mori also revealed that Abe is now reluctant to attend the kick-off ceremony since the Japanese government has been requesting people refrain from holding large events to prevent the spread of the virus.

Olympic torchbearers in Japan expressed concerns over the IOC’s new direction.

“Both runners and spectators of the relay would be half-hearted. I wonder whether they will let us run again if (the sporting event) is postponed,” said 66-year-old Yumiko Nishimoto, who is scheduled to run in Fukushima on Thursday as one of the 10,000 torchbearers in Japan.

The 121-day Japanese leg is scheduled to kick off at the J-Village soccer training center, which served as a frontline base of operations to battle the 2011 nuclear crisis caused by the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster that year.

A decision on postponement “should be made before the torch relay starts,” Nishimoto said. “I have mixed feelings as I feel that we are being messed around.”

The global coronavirus pandemic has cast a cloud over the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics from July 24 to Aug. 9 and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sep. 6. In recent days, national Olympic committees in Brazil, Norway and the Netherlands have called for postponements.

Japanese government officials have repeatedly said preparations are under way for the games to go ahead as scheduled, and the flame for the Olympics arrived on Friday in Japan.

During a videoconference with other leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations earlier in the month, Abe secured support for holding “complete” games, meaning they should be held with spectators and without any downsizing.

“I think U.S. President (Donald) Trump and other G-7 leaders will support my decision,” Abe said in the parliamentary session.


https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/03/c6332013fc1d-urgent-abe-hints-at-possibility-of-postponing-tokyo-olympics.html

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Mounting Tokyo 2020 postponement calls put pressure on defiant Olympic chiefs

hjhlkjmlkIOC President Thomas Bach insists that it is too early for the Olympics to be postponed, as the start is four months away

 

March 22, 2020

PARIS: Pressure mounted on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games on Saturday (Mar 21) after the powerful US track and field federation urged this summer’s event be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

USA Track and Field became the latest influential sports body to ask for the Games to be called off after its head Max Siegel “respectfully requested” in a letter that the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) “advocate … for the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo”.

USOPC had said it was too soon to axe the Jul 24 to Aug 9 Games, much like International Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach, who said that it would be “premature” to make such a big decision.

“The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritise everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognise the toll this difficult situation has, and continues to take, on our athletes and their Olympic Games preparations,” wrote Siegel.

USATF joined a growing chorus of calls from sports organisations to push back the Olympics, a day after the country’s swimming federation asked USOPC to back a postponement until 2021.

“We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes,” USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said in a letter.

That request for a delay was echoed on Saturday by France’s swimming federation which said that the Games could not be organised properly in the “current context”.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told AFP Saturday that the sporting world was in “uncharted territory”.

“We have another meeting early next week to discuss the work, given the number of athletes who are struggling to train in various countries due to measures put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” said Coe.

“I don’t think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety and a decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly in the coming days and weeks.

“The issue of competition fairness is paramount. We are all managing the situation day by day and increasingly hour by hour.”

The Norwegian Olympic Committee (NOC) quickly followed, saying that it had sent a letter to the IOC on Friday, motivated in part by a Norwegian government ban on organised sports activities which had created “a very challenging time for the sports movement in Norway”.

“Our clear recommendation is that the Olympic Games in Tokyo shall not take place before the COVID-19 situation is under firm control on a global scale,” the NOC said in the letter.

IOC “PUTTING US IN DANGER”

The new chairman of the United Kingdom’s athletics governing body also questioned the need to hold the Olympics this summer given the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, which has now killed over 12,000 people worldwide according to an AFP tally.

“To leave it where it is is creating so much pressure in the system. It now has to be addressed,” head of UK Athletics Nic Coward told the BBC.

On Friday, Bach defended the IOC’s refusal to cancel the Olympics by saying that the Games were further away than other shelved events, such as football’s European Championship which was due to start in mid-June and has been moved to 2021.

“We are four-and-a-half months away from the Games,” Bach told the New York Times.

“For us, (postponement) would not be responsible now.”

Athletes lashed out at IOC advice to continue training “as best they can”, with Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi accusing the body of “putting us in danger”.

“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” asked Stefanidi.

World champion fencer Race Imboden of the United States said on Twitter that he was “worried” about the prospect of the Olympics going ahead.

“We keep being told the Olympic Games are happening. Starting to realise it’s more important to have the games go on than the athletes be prepared or mentally healthy.”

But USOPC chairwoman Susanne Lyons insisted on Friday that organisers had time on their side.

“We don’t have to make a decision. Our games are not next week, or two weeks from now. They’re four months from now,” Lyons said.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/mounting-tokyo-2020-postponement-calls-put-pressure-on-defiant-olympic-chiefs-12564066?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Thousands flock to see Olympic flame in Japan despite COVID-19 fears

If you want a definition of denial, this is it. “More than 50,000 people on Saturday (Mar 21) queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.” Yes, this despite covid-19, and despite the fact that, incredibly, the Abe government is only “considering” not holding the Olympics, a decision that should have been taken months before the outbreak, given the level of radiological contamination in some regions, lingering on long after the March 2011 nuclear disaster. 

 

ghjlklmlTens of thousands queued at Sendai station to see the Olympic flame

 

March 22, 2020

SENDAI: Tens of thousands of people flocked to a cauldron with the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan over the weekend despite concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony on Friday as doubts grew over whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on schedule as the deadly virus causes chaos around the world.

The pandemic has already shredded the global sports calendar, with top sports leagues suspended and major tournaments postponed.

More than 50,000 people on Saturday (Mar 21) queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

Some had to stay in a 500m queue for several hours, local media said.

Many of them wore masks as they took pictures with the cherry blossom-shaped cauldron.

“I queued for three hours but watching the Olympic flame was greatly encouraging,” a 70-year-old woman told public broadcaster NHK.

 

jkjmmùOrganisers are under pressure to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

But organisers, concerned about the bigger-than-expected gathering, have warned the viewing event could be suspended if a crowd becomes “extremely dense”, local media reported.

The nationwide torch relay begins on Mar 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was used as a base for workers during the 2011 nuclear disaster.

But organisers have been forced to scale back the relay, closing daily ceremonies to the public and urging spectators to “avoid forming crowds” along the route.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/olympics-flame-covid-19-crowds-tokyo-2020-japan-12564712?fbclid=IwAR1AOdgsAiK0W_gqaJ6CWMQqRCJnxrtLNM9WCTTF0zLWYvpsywDi1NBRJ4M

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo 2020 Olympics on their way to be postponed…

jklmmùù

 

Canada and Australia will not send athletes to Tokyo Olympics

March 23, 2020

(CNN)Canada and Australia will not send athletes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the risks associated with the coronavirus outbreak, the Olympic committees for both countries said in separate statements.

Both countries’ Olympic committees also are calling for the Games to be postponed until 2021.

“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said in a joint statement Sunday. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.”

The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board met by teleconference Monday and unanimously agreed that an Australian Olympic team could not be assembled given the changing circumstances across the world, the committee said in a statement.

The committee also said “our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families.”

“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July,” said Ian Chesterman, Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo. “Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.”

Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said athletes should prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“The athletes desperately want to go to the games…but they also take onboard their own personal health,” Carroll told reporters in Sydney on Monday. “We need to give our athletes that certainty and that’s what we’ve done.”

IOC says its not canceling the Olympics

The committees’ decisions came hours after International Olympic Committee’s executive board said it is considering postponing — but not canceling — this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC board said it is considering several options to deal with the ongoing outbreak, including modifying plans to allow the 2020 Tokyo Games to begin on schedule on July 24 or changing the start date for the Games.

The IOC executive board ruled out canceling the Games, saying it would “destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes” and all those who support them, according to a letter to athletes from IOC President Thomas Bach.

The Canadian statement thanked the IOC for saying it would not cancel the games, saying the IOC appreciates the “the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that a decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics may be needed if the Games cannot be held in a complete form.

Abe made the remark during a parliamentary session Monday after the IOC announced Sunday that the group has decided to step up scenario-planning for the 2020 Tokyo Games in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

IOC faces more pressure to postpone games

The IOC has faced increasing pressure to postpone the Games as people across the world have gotten sick and died from Covid-19. Tracks, gyms and public spaces are closed in much of the world and major qualifying events have been canceled.

Japan Olympic Committee member Kaori Yamaguchi broke ranks on Friday, saying the Games should be postponed because some athletes had been unable to train.

The heads of USA Swimming and USA Track and Field both called for the Olympics to be postponed to 2021 over the weekend.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/22/americas/canada-no-athletes-tokyo-olympics/index.html?fbclid=IwAR14fsfCQOEkjXJeFv5zPAxXJ2jaT4WEAXagx9deUtwX-92STAsA7K4ScjY

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

IOC must face coronavirus reality and postpone 2020 Olympics

ghgkjllNew York Post back page

 

March 22, 2020

We are all, all of us, going through various stages of denial where sports are concerned. We are entering Week 3 of our games-free world and we are all here to report that the sun still comes up every morning, it still sets every evening, and every single time they replay the Duke-Kentucky game from 1992, Rick Pitino still doesn’t guard the inbounds pass.

(Perhaps he was distracted by the Iona job 28 years in his future.)

There is a part of us, all of us, that has to beat down the delusional optimist lurking inside. Logically, we know that it’ll be awhile before we see a live sporting event, but even as we start to dream of ordering $12 Heinekens at a ballpark, we turn on the television and there is Gov. Cuomo, saying plainly of COVID-19: “It’s going to work its way through society. But it’s going to be four months, six months, nine months. We’re in that range. Nobody has a crystal ball, no one can tell you.”

Four months. Six months. Nine months.

It’s hard for that potential reality to sink in.

It’s exponentially more fun to see Bill James, the godfather of modern baseball analysis, post on Twitter as he did this weekend: “Pick the day on which you think the major-league baseball season will begin. My pick: May 15.”

(Unless he meant May 15, 2021. That seems more reasonable.)

Of course James, like the rest of us, is a fan. We are allowed our spasms of optimism, even when that bleeds into delusion. There is, after all, nothing rational about living and dying with a hockey team; why should there be anything rational about wanting to SEE a hockey game?

It’s different when you’re talking about the people who run things. We saw a lot of that two weeks ago, when the folks who run sports leagues and basketball tournaments and other such operations came to slow, deliberate and ultimately regret-filled (but proper) decisions to shut things down. The absurdity of that St. John’s-Creighton game going on for a half is something the Big East, specifically commissioner Val Ackerman, will have to answer to in time, when we hold public and private inquests on how all of this went down.

And now there is the International Olympic Committee, which should already have reached the sad conclusion that the upcoming Tokyo Games should be, at least, postponed a year. The U.S. swimming and track and field committees have already called for that. So has a growing number of nations.

Forget the dubious possibility that the world will feel properly scrubbed and sanitized by July 24, when the parade of nations and 11,000 athletes are scheduled to march into Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies. Let’s say the optimists among us prevail, and we start seeing live sports again sometime in late June or early July.

Even that makes the notion of an on-time start silly. Only 4,000 of those 11,000 athletes have properly qualified for the Games. The trials that would determine the competitors have largely been postponed already, or are certain to be. Travel restrictions are fluid, at best. The Olympics, in optimal times, are a logistical quagmire; amid a global pandemic they would be catastrophic.

Yet the IOC reiterated Sunday that it will wait as long as four weeks before deciding what to do about the Games, with postponement until 2021 the likeliest alternative. And even that concession was only reached after the mounting pressures of local Olympic committees begging the IOC to do the right thing — but before the Canadian and Australian Olympic and Paralympic committees declared they simply won’t send contingents to Tokyo this year, in the strongest show of force — and common sense — yet.

Sometimes, the right thing is simply obvious. It is here. The Olympics, after all, have mostly known their place in world affairs. The 1916 Summer Games were canceled because of World War I, and both the summer and winter games of 1940 and ’44 were canceled due to World War II. The IOC should probably have halted the ’72 Games after terrorists bloodied the Munich Olympiad, but it has had to answer harsh questions about that for 48 years, and rightly so.

Now?

Look, this falls in line with everything else. Everything about our world stinks right now, from our daily small sacrifices (staying home, staying away from friends, honoring quarantines and social distance) to our greater concerns, the workers losing their jobs, the victims felled by this insipid virus, the heroic doctors and nurses and EMTs fighting it on the front lines.

We grapple with these things every day. We bargain in our brains how to cope. It stinks to go through that every day. But we do, all of us, every day. The IOC must do the same, and be quick about it, and smart about it.

Delusion in these times is neither a good strategy nor a good look.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/22/ioc-delusional-by-ignoring-2020-olympics-coronavirus-fate/?fbclid=IwAR1jQ95_ZwsulenegjwDFsMCSUXG5-GCHEWwh_Jg6RwTfCT65v1ejCn3MOU

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Crowds form at Olympic torch event in Japan despite coronavirus caution

ghjlklmlPeople wear protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic’s Flame of Recovery tour at Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture on Friday

 

March 20, 2020

ISHINOMAKI (Reuters) An Olympic torch event in Japan drew hundreds of spectators on the day of the flame’s arrival on Friday, creating the type of packed gathering the government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have warned against to prevent coronavirus from spreading further.

About 500 people gathered in a jostling crowd to look at the flame and popular comedians taking part in a ceremony in Ishinomaki, 335 km north of Tokyo.

The Greek part of the torch relay began last week, but a day later the remainder was canceled to avoid attracting crowds.

It is not a good decision [to come here] but I am not sure if I will get another chance to see the cauldron, Ishinomaki resident and teacher Kiyotake Goto, 44, told Reuters.

Earlier in the day, a plane carrying the torch from Greece arrived at Japan Air Self-Defence Force Matsushima airbase, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

No spectators were present for the arrival ceremony at the base, where officials pledged the Tokyo 2020 Games will proceed despite mounting pressure to halt the world’s biggest sporting event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We originally planned to have children here to welcome the flame. But, prioritizing their safety, we’ve decided to do without them, Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori said.

That was an agonizing decision … We will do our utmost in preparing for a safe and secure event, said Mori, a former prime minister.

Organizers have repeatedly said the Games, due to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, will go ahead, but as the rapid spread of the virus brings the sports world to a virtual standstill, fears are growing that the Olympics may be postponed or canceled.

I think it’s impossible [to hold the Games]. It’ll be a global issue if the virus spreads even further, Koichiro Maeda, a 55-year-old company employee, told Reuters in downtown Tokyo.

The respiratory disease, which emerged in China late last year, has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide.

Japan is grappling with pressure to avoid a health crisis among 600,000 expected overseas spectators and athletes at an event that could see $3 billion in sponsorships and at least $12 billion spent on preparations evaporate.

The plane with the torch arrived nearly empty after the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee decided not to send a high-level delegation that was originally to have included Mori and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.

This is a tough time. I hope the torch relay will bring people vigor and hope, Saori Yoshida, three-times gold-medal winning wrestler, told the welcome ceremony.

The flame will travel round the Tohoku region hit by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, in what organizers call a recovery flame tour before the official kick-off ceremony in Fukushima on March 26.

Organizers have urged the public not to crowd the relay route, canceling many events along the way and restricting public access to others. Runners and staff will have their temperatures and health monitored, organizers said.

Some athletes, including reigning Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, said the International Olympic Committee’s decision to go ahead was putting their health at risk when entire countries have shut down to curb the virus.

The torch relay will begin at J-Village, a soccer training center in Fukushima that served as an operations base for workers who battled triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the 2011 tsunami.

It is due to pass many of Japan’s most famous landmarks over a 121-day journey to Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, including Mount Fuji, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Kumamoto Castle.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-flame-arrival/crowds-form-at-olympic-torch-event-in-japan-despite-coronavirus-caution-idUSKBN2163LH

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Cancel. The. Olympics.

hhjA board in Yokohama, Japan, on Monday showed the number of days until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.Credit…

Amid a pandemic, it would be wildly irresponsible for the Games to go on.

March 18, 2020

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers insist that the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games will go on. Even with widespread cancellations in European soccer, Formula One auto racing, and professional and collegiate basketball in the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan vowed, “We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned.”

While sports can create an escape hatch from the grit and grind of daily life, there is no escaping the fact that the coronavirus pandemic presents an extraordinary challenge that cannot be overcome with mere platitudes and prayers. Pressing ahead with the Tokyo Games means creating a massive, potentially perilous petri dish. For the sake of global public health, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games should be canceled.

The Olympics are not slated to commence until July 24. But the International Olympic Committee’s response to the coronavirus has not been forward-thinking. After a recent meeting of the executive board, the I.O.C.’s president, Thomas Bach, stated that the board had not even mentioned the words “postponement” or “cancellation.” But organizers have delivered mixed messages. A Tokyo 2020 executive board member suggested delaying the Games, only to backpedal and apologize, while the organizing committee chairman, Yoshiro Mori, said, “Our basic stance is to proceed with our preparation and to hold a safe Olympics.” Japan’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, hewed to a similar script: “The I.O.C. and 2020 organizers are not at all considering canceling or postponing the Games.”

In a communiqué issued Tuesday, the I.O.C. noted that its task force overseeing the situation was considering possible “adaptations” but that the I.O.C. “remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” adding, “with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counterproductive.”

Refusing to even consider alternatives is reckless. Measured, evidence-driven speculation is the responsible course. Epidemiologists have been clear that the coronavirus is a potentially historic pandemic. Each day, the World Health Organization reveals more countries and territories with reported cases of the virus. The W.H.O. recently declared that Europe, where many Summer Olympians live and train, is the pandemic’s epicenter. According to experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pandemic could infect between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States.

With athletes and spectators coming from around the world, the Olympics could become a dystopic coronavirus hot zone. As a Stanford University infectious disease specialist, Yvonne Maldonado, put it, with the Olympics, “You bring a lot of people together, and then you ship them back all over the world: That’s the perfect way to transmit.”

But the Olympic spectacle is a powerful drug. Last week, despite the coronavirus mayhem, the Olympic torch relay commenced in Greece, where an actor dressed as a pagan priestess ignited the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia. Within hours, however, the torch relay was canceled over public-health concerns.

And yet, Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers contend the torch relay will proceed on schedule, starting on March 26 in Fukushima, the prefecture decimated by the triple-whammy earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011. This decision has not only raised eyebrows in light of the pandemic but also because Greenpeace has found radiation hot spots along the torch relay route.

While participants in the Olympic torch relay may be putting themselves in harm’s way, personnel at the I.O.C.’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, will not. This week, most of them began teleworking. According to the I.O.C., this measure aims “to protect the health of its staff and their families” from the coronavirus. Workers with the Tokyo torch relay are not being accorded the same precautions.

The I.O.C. has a history of pressing through catastrophe to stage the Games, adopting the mantra “the Games must go on.” In a fractious world, the Olympics symbolize international cooperation and good will. But must they in the age of coronavirus? Much remains unknown about Covid-19, and one study, forthcoming in Swiss Medical Weekly, projects the disease won’t reach its peak until winter 2020-21. Insisting that the Olympics take place while the world wobbles to the rhythms of a pandemic requires real hubris.

There are powerful interests that are keen to make sure the Tokyo 2020 Games are staged on schedule. Television broadcasters, while insured, will see profits melt away. Japanese politicians like Prime Minister Abe have sunk enormous sums of political capital into the Games. The I.O.C.’s Olympic brand could suffer damage. And there is added pressure to recoup funds after the price for the Tokyo Olympics skyrocketed from $7.3 billion at the time of the bid to more than $26 billion, according to an audit by the Japanese government. But fiscal irresponsibility does not justify exacerbating a global public-health emergency.

President Trump recently suggested that the Games should not take place this summer, although Japan’s Olympic minister immediately rebuffed postponement. Delaying the Games involves significant complications and costs. For broadcasters like NBC it means having to compete for eyeballs in a crowded sports calendar, including its own cash-cow programming like football. Postponement also adds costs to an already bloated budget for venue maintenance and the Tokyo 2020 payroll. Then there is the Olympic Village, slated to be turned into apartments, many of which have already been sold.

The Olympics have long been mired in a slow-motion crisis, with doping, athlete abuse and a dwindling number of cities keen to host. The way that Olympic power brokers have responded has been distressing. They do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Cancellation may appear ominous. But in reality, it would be a remarkable act of global solidarity. Pierre de Coubertin, the French aristocrat who revived the modern Olympics in the 1890s, referred to “the noble spirit of chivalry” as the foundation for sport and society. To confront the coronavirus crisis, a hefty dose of selfless chivalry is required. Amid a global pandemic, holding the Games is unconscionable. It’s time to hit the five-ring pause button and cancel the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/opinion/tokyo-olympics-coronavirus.html?smid=fb-share&fbclid=IwAR1zCEth6GxvkXtxXxnfxysJImQ_-Ru57O4Pkn9DvuIvlH23NxfwLpWB-wY

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan Olympics Official Tests Positive For COVID-19 As Training Camps Canceled Across Country

olympics officialThe deputy head of Japan’s Olympics Committee has coronavirus after reportedly experiencing a mild fever on Sunday after returning from a trip to Europe and the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal.

 

March 17, 2020

Kozo Tashima, who is also the president of Japan’s Football Association, was in Orlando, Florida on March 5 where he watched the Japanese women’s soccer national team play against Spain. While in the US he lobbied for Japan to host the women’s soccer World Cup during meetings held in New York – before returning to Japan on March 8.

“My symptoms didn’t start until March 14, so I wasn’t a major infection risk to others, but I apologize to those who were in meetings with me, JFA executives, the media and others I may have been in close contact with,” said Tashima in a statement, adding that his condition isn’t serious.

Mr. Tashima is almost certain to be unable to attend the next executive board meeting for the Olympic organizing committee at the end of this month, at which the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be on the agenda. Mr. Tashima is one of 25 executive board members who attend meetings every few months to review Olympic planning. –Wall Street Journal

While government officials said on Tuesday that they intend to hold the Olympics during the pandemic, with spectators and without changes to the scale of the event scheduled to begin July 24, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun to change his tone, according to TIME.

Abe and his cabinet, as well as the organizers and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, had until days ago been unanimous in insisting the Games would be staged as scheduled. But, following a G-7 leaders’ video conference on the coronavirus Monday, Abe avoided comment on the timing of the event.

I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus, and I gained support for that from the G-7 leaders,” he told reporters after the event.

Asked whether the timing of the event was discussed, Abe repeated the same phrases without answering directly. He also used similar words when asked about the issue in parliament Monday. –TIME

Meanwhile, NHK reports that foreign countries’ national team training camps for the Olympic and Paralympic games have been canceled or postponed in 16 cities across Japan.

Cancellations include the table tennis and gymnastics team from Colombia, which planned on training in the western city of Kitakyushu, as well as Britain’s wheelchair basketball team which had scheduled practice in Urayasu City near Tokyo.

NHK also reports that events or projects to promote exchanges between foreign athletes and local residents have been canceled or postponed in approximately 60 municipalities throughout Japan – including a project by Matsukawa Town in Nagano Prefecture which planned to send high school students to Costa Rica.

https://www.zerohedge.com/political/japan-olympics-official-tests-positive-covid-19-training-camps-canceled-across-country?fbclid=IwAR2VGIukAzMDliLCqTCRr7s_7w76lBut1xhZuAvyQVsAxyAGkAXkmd48UJY

 

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japanese Prime Minister Gives First Hints Tokyo Olympics Could Be Postponed

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March 17, 2020

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun to shift his messaging on the Tokyo Olympics, in a sign he may have accepted that the deadly coronavirus will make it necessary to postpone the event planned to start in July.

Abe and his cabinet, as well as the organizers and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, had until days ago been unanimous in insisting the Games would be staged as scheduled. But, following a G-7 leaders’ video conference on the coronavirus Monday, Abe avoided comment on the timing of the event.

I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus, and I gained support for that from the G-7 leaders,” he told reporters after the event.

Sporting events around the globe have been called off, delayed or held without spectators because of the virus, raising questions on whether it would be safe to bring hundreds of thousands of athletes, officials and spectators together in Tokyo. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the Tokyo Olympics should be pushed back a year.

Asked whether the timing of the event was discussed, Abe repeated the same phrases without answering directly. He also used similar words when asked about the issue in parliament Monday.

Abe’s comments come after a poll showed almost two thirds of Japanese voters thought the Olympics should be postponed due to the pandemic. Japan’s prime minister had been closely associated with Tokyo hosting the games — flying to Buenos Aires in 2013 to make a bid for Japan’s case in person and appearing at the closing ceremonies for the Rio Games four years ago dressed as the Super Mario video game character to promote Tokyo 2020.

The politics of delaying the games have shifted. In the early days of the crisis, delaying would have been an admission that Abe had failed to manage it. Now that it’s a global crisis, delaying may be what’s necessary to defend the Japanese people,” Tobias Harris, a Japan analyst for Teneo Intelligence in Washington, wrote on Twitter.

Proceed As Planned?

With a growing number of qualifying events already canceled, the summer start date is looking increasingly impracticable. The Tokyo Organizing Committee is asking that spectators stay away from Japan’s torch relay beginning at the end of the month, Kyodo News reported, an event usually expected to drum up excitement for the games.

Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto later denied that Abe’s comments meant any delay to the event.

Holding it perfectly means preparing properly to hold it as planned, and working together to that end,” she said Tuesday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said there was no change to Japan’s preparations.

The French Olympic committee chief was reported as saying earlier that the virus must be on the wane by late May to allow the Tokyo Games to take place in July.

In response, Hashimoto reiterated that the International Olympic Committee had the authority to make the decision.

I am aware of various individual opinions, but the government’s position is to provide support in close cooperation with the IOC, the organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government,” she said.

The Olympic Games haven’t been canceled since the summer of 1944, when they were called off due to World War Two.

 

https://time.com/5804519/tokyo-olympics-coronavirus-postpone/?fbclid=IwAR3GaAf26l2-29iA9lmhsprobmzwLj8x2vRhizT7OltG_JcYHzNCOavdBfs

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

70% do not expect Tokyo Olympics to be held as scheduled: Kyodo poll

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March 15, 2020

A total of 69.9 percent of people do not expect the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer to be held as scheduled amid the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, a Kyodo News survey showed Monday.

The poll, conducted from Saturday to Monday by phone, comes as Japan continues with preparations for the Olympics, from July 24 to Aug. 9, and the Paralympics, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, with Abe saying he has no immediate plan to declare a state of emergency, and that the Summer Games will go ahead as scheduled.

Even though public opinion is split on how well the government has responded to the crisis, the approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet rose to 49.7 percent from 41.0 percent in February.

Of those who said they approved of the administration, 53.4 percent responded that it was because there were no other appropriate choices besides Abe.

Since the previous opinion poll in mid-February, steps have been taken by Abe’s government to combat the spread of the virus, including requesting large events be canceled, and schools be shut through the start of the new academic year in April, relief measures for businesses and tougher border control measures, especially for travelers from China and South Korea.

In the survey with 1,032 respondents, 48.3 percent said the government measures against the virus are appropriate, while 44.3 percent said they disapprove of them.

The spread of the pneumonia-causing virus has halted a significant amount of international and domestic travel.

To ease the adverse effects of the outbreak, Abe has introduced zero-interest loans for small and midsize companies that are in a cash crunch due to sharp falls in sales as part of funding packages totaling 1.5 trillion yen ($14 billion).

Still, 90.7 percent of the respondents said they are worried or somewhat worried about the economic impact of the new coronavirus outbreak, an increase from 82.5 percent in the previous poll.

A total of 71.8 percent answered that the school closures aimed at preventing a further spread of the virus were appropriate or somewhat appropriate, while 83.1 percent supported the implementation of tougher border control measures for travelers from China and South Korea, a move which has hit Japan’s tourism industry hard.

The virus has claimed the lives of at least 31 people in Japan, and more than 1,500 people have been infected with it, including about 700 cases from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo.

As Abe has been facing severe criticism over the handling of documents related to publicly funded annual cherry blossom viewing parties that are at the center of yet another scandal alleging cronyism, 82.5 percent said he failed to explain himself to the public over the issue sufficiently.

The survey, covering 739 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,219 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 512 and 520 people, respectively.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/03/c44332182570-urgent-70-do-not-expect-tokyo-olympics-to-be-held-as-scheduled-kyodo-poll.html?fbclid=IwAR2OkeV6C-aL7x_W7DlMUmsSBift5sozEdExA8xhw-ULZGeECHbcn6PdhOE

 

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Starting the Olympic torch relay in Fukushima should remind us of the dangers of nuclear power

FILES-OLY-2020-TOKYO-JPN-JAPAN-NUCLEAR-FUKUSHIMAA woman protests against the Olympics and the government’s nuclear energy policy Feb. 29 in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, where the Olympic torch relay begins this month.

March 13, 2020

VANCOUVER – If the Tokyo Olympics are held on schedule, thousands of athletes will soon come to Japan. Considering the multiple reactors that melted down there nine years ago, in March 2011, the government’s decision to start the ceremonial torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture seems a bit odd, to say the least.

While radiation levels may have declined since 2011, there are still hot spots in the prefecture, including near the sports complex where the torch relay will begin and along the relay route. The persistence of this contamination, and the economic fallout of the reactor accidents, should remind us of the hazardous nature of nuclear power.

Simultaneously, changes in the economics of alternative sources of energy in the last decade invite us to reconsider how countries, including Japan, should generate electricity in the future.

Japan is not alone in having experienced severe nuclear accidents. The 1986 Chernobyl accident also contaminated very large areas in Ukraine and Belarus. As in Japan, many people had to be evacuated; about 116,000, according to the 2000 report of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Many of them never did return; 34 years after the accident, thousands of square kilometers remain closed off to human inhabitation.

Events such as these are, naturally, traumatic and result in people viewing nuclear power as a risky technology. In turn, that view has led to persistent and widespread public opposition around the world.

This is evident in Japan too, where opinion polls show overwhelming opposition to the government’s plans to restart nuclear plants that have been shut down. One poll from February 2019 found 56 percent of respondents were opposed to, with only 32 percent in favor of, resuming nuclear operations. Other polls show significant local opposition, one example coming out of Miyagi Prefecture. Even the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, which aims to promote nuclear power, finds that only 17.3 percent prefer nuclear energy, with much larger majorities preferring solar, wind and hydro power.

There is also the immense cost of cleaning up after such accidents. Estimates for the Fukushima disaster range from nearly $200 billion to over $600 billion. In 2013, France’s nuclear safety institute estimated that a similar accident in France could end up costing $580 billion. In Japan, just the cost of bringing old nuclear power plants into compliance with post-Fukushima safety regulations has been estimated at $44.2 billion.

Even in the absence of accidents and additional safety features, nuclear power is already very expensive. For the United States, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimates an average cost of $155 per megawatt-hour of nuclear electricity, more than three times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per MWh each for wind and solar energy. The latter costs have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last 10 years. In the face of the high costs of nuclear power — economic, environmental and public health — and overwhelming public opposition, it is puzzling that the government would persist in trying to restart nuclear power plants.

To explain his support for the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that the country cannot do without nuclear power, especially in view of climate change concerns. The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off. Further, starting in 2015, Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below the levels in 2011, because of “reduced energy consumption” and the increase in “low-carbon electricity.” The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation, a factor that could play an important role in the future.

Some, including the Global Energy Network Institute and a group of analysts led by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson, argue that Japan could be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Regardless of whether Japan reaches that goal, there is little doubt that Japan could be expanding renewable energy, and that increased reliance on renewables makes economic and environmental sense.

Instead, the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and promoting nuclear power. Efforts by Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that controls nuclear and energy policy.

Moreover, Abenomics involves exports of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms, as an important component. So far, despite many trips by Abe to various countries, Japan has yet to export any reactors in the last decade; a project with the most likely client, Turkey, collapsed because of high costs.

This suggests one possible explanation: Perhaps Abe realizes that before exporting nuclear reactors, he first has to shore up the domestic nuclear industry and prove that Japan has fully recovered from the 2011 nuclear disaster. But is that worth the risk?

Restarting nuclear reactors or constructing new ones, should that ever happen, only increases the likelihood of more nuclear accidents in the future and raises the costs of electricity. Regardless of who we cheer for at the Olympic Games, nuclear power does not deserve our applause.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/03/13/commentary/japan-commentary/starting-olympic-torch-relay-fukushima-remind-us-dangers-nuclear-power/?fbclid=IwAR3x4IaqlQwkdqMwg816C3CaL95O40DpbRcG6UTRbDRDm3qc63R0HvH5Cq0#.Xmx7IXJCeUl

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

In Tokyo, a growing sense of angst over possible virus-hit Olympics

Olympics Tokyo Who Loses?A man walks in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building on Feb. 25.

Mar 11, 2020

For weeks, Olympic organizers have relentlessly pushed a consistent message: The Summer Games in Tokyo will not be canceled or postponed.

On Wednesday, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto called postponement “inconceivable,” pushing back on a Wall Street Journal report in which Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the executive board for the Japanese organizing committee, suggested that the games could be delayed by one or two years if unable to be held as scheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

With the star athletes in the middle of preparations for this event which happens only once every four years, a cancellation or delay to the Tokyo games is inconceivable,” Hashimoto said in a parliamentary committee. “A delay is not under consideration.”

But behind the scenes, sponsors who have pumped billions of dollars into the games have grown increasingly nervous about how the coronavirus outbreak will impact the event.

When organizers and sponsors met privately to discuss preparations last Wednesday, the companies learned there had been no decision on whether — or when — there would be any changes to the games.

A lot of people are starting to worry, but there’s nothing much we can do,” a representative of an Olympic sponsor, who was present at the previously unreported meeting, said.

If this continues into April, May, June, it will be an issue, but we’re still waiting to see what will happen,” added the representative, who was not authorized to speak to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The meetings between the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and “partner companies,” including sponsors, take place regularly. There were dozens of people present at the one last week.

Nothing has been decided. On the inside, it’s a mess,” said a person briefed on the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The final decision belongs to the powerful International Olympic Committee chief, Thomas Bach. Companies such as Coca-Cola Co., Bridgestone Corp, Canon Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic Corp. sponsor the games, and Japanese brands have for decades been some of the most generous.

The IOC said on Wednesday that “the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are continuing as planned.”

Tokyo 2020 organizing committee did not respond to a request for comment.

The meeting last week brought into focus the scale of what organizers are grappling with: pressure to avoid a coronavirus crisis among 600,000 expected overseas spectators and athletes at an event that could see $3 billion in sponsorships and at least $12 billion spent on preparations evaporate.

Takahashi, one of more than two dozen members of the board of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, said it has just started working on scenarios for how the virus could affect the games. But a sponsor representative present at the meeting last week said those plans are not being shared with the companies.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has staked his legacy as the longest-serving Japanese leader on staging a successful games and bringing a massive jolt, estimated at $2.3 billion, to the stagnant economy with tourism and consumer spending.

Some Olympic qualifiers and test events have been relocated or delayed. The games themselves don’t start until late July, leaving some time for the organizers to make the final call.

Neal Pilson, the former head of CBS Sports, who was involved in broadcasting rights negotiations for three Winter Olympics said he expected organizers to assess the situation by early May at the latest, when they “will have a better fix on whether the epidemic is tapering down or continuing to expand.”

Hashimoto said the end of May was a possible time frame for a decision.

Organizers have begun to modify their tone. At a news conference last week, Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori vehemently denied that the games would be canceled, but added that planners were “listening to various opinions” and responding “flexibly because the situation changes day by day.”

Last week, Hashimoto was questioned in parliament on the clause in the contract between the IOC and the organizers in Japan that determines when the Olympic committee could terminate the games.

One of the scenarios is the inability of the host city to hold the Olympics in 2020.

The mention of the clause touched off speculation that the minister was hinting at a delay, which sponsors at last week’s meeting were told sparked the ire of the IOC.

As a result, Hashimoto called senior members of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee to explain how she was “misunderstood.”

According to the contract, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the Japanese Olympic Committee signed away any right to indemnity, damages or compensation from the IOC.

The contract says the IOC may scrap the games when safety is “seriously threatened,” among other reasons.

Those three bodies have formed a task force on the virus that consults closely with the World Health Organization, which last week warned against “false hopes” that the virus would disappear with warmer summer weather.

Many sports in Japan, such as rugby and sumo, have held recent matches without spectators.

Although keeping spectators away would cost estimated $800 million in lost ticket sales, it could still provide billions in revenue from broadcast and marketing rights.

But experts said it would still be difficult to organize safe games with thousands of athletes living in close proximity.

In the Olympic village alone, you’re bringing together 17,000-18,000 people, they’re living in close quarters, interacting with each other, coming from all over the world,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College specializing in sports economics.

A Tokyo 2020 official involved in the discussions on Olympics and the virus said that delaying the games until later in the year would be difficult.

Takahashi, of the organizing committee, said a one- or two-year delay would better accommodate professional sports schedules, which are planned years in advance.

We need to start preparing for any possibility. If the games can’t be held in the summer, a delay of one or two years would be most feasible,” Takahashi said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2020/03/11/olympics/tokyo-2020-olympics-cancel-coronavirus/?fbclid=IwAR31jS5x11pf1gNX3eE34vubB3CrtVIoaXDcTjzFK7VuFGIKutC7MCN-98o#.XmlCoEpCeUl

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan may have to cancel the Olympics

Covid-19 could scupper Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s pet project

 

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March 7, 2020

IF BANYAN HAD to choose one country in which to ride out a pandemic, it would surely be Japan. Early 19th-century woodblock prints of bathing testify to Japan’s old and admirable cult of cleanliness. Modern Japanese have for years been quick to don a face mask at the first sniffle, out of consideration for others. And the population responds swiftly to public messaging.

Hygiene measures advocated against covid-19 since mid-January emphasise frequent washing of hands. This has surely helped slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially given that of Japan’s 1,035 covid-19 cases and 12 deaths, most are associated with a cruise ship held for weeks off Yokohoma. One striking and positive side-effect is already apparent: unlike in Europe or America, doctors report sharp falls in cases of ordinary flu, not only compared with previous years but also with the first part of the winter. Given that 3,300 deaths were attributed to flu in Japan in 2018, the good hygiene inculcated in recent months may well have saved far more lives than covid-19 has claimed.

For all that, social strains have shown in recent days. In Tokyo scuffles have broken out in queues for facemasks outside pharmacies. Panic-buying of toilet paper has left shelves bare. A photograph of toilet rolls in a public lavatory chained to their dispenser with a bicycle lock has done the rounds. While hardly “Lord of the Flies”, it is all highly unusual in such a well-behaved country.

Blame a squall of doubt over the government of the usually assertive prime minister, Abe Shinzo. His problems seem, precisely, to have begun with the cruise ship, the Diamond Princess. When cases of covid-19, contracted overseas, became clear among the 3,700 people aboard, measures to isolate them failed badly. The vessel was, as one passenger put it, a floating petri dish, as the number of infected soared to over 700, with seven deaths. Extraordinarily, crew were eventually let ashore from the infected vessel, and Japanese passengers allowed to return home on public transport, with no further quarantine measures.

When it comes to bumbling crisis management, Japan has form. After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, yakuza (gangsters) set up soup kitchens, so slow was government help to arrive. Bureaucratic disarray ruled in the Diamond Princess’s handling, too. European ambassadors with nationals aboard complained they did not know who in the government to call. Fans wondered whether Mr Abe, invisible during the crisis, had lost his touch. His hitherto unassailable poll ratings fell sharply.

To contain the damage to his reputation as well as the coronavirus, on February 27th Mr Abe took the initiative, telling all schools to close until April. Preparing for the worst, he rushed through legislation this week allowing a state of emergency to be declared. And he unveiled an emergency spending package.

The assertive Abe, then, is back. So much so that questions are growing about what expert advice, if any, he drew on for his schools decision. New social stresses will surely emerge, not least for working mothers (it never seems to be fathers) who must now drum up weeks of day-time childcare. “The government does not grasp what it’s like to raise children,” one mother complains.

The government claims that Japan will return to normal in April. That seems implausible. A state visit by China’s president, Xi Jinping, which was supposed to put the two countries’ listing relationship on an even keel, has already been postponed. There is little political cost to Mr Abe—after all, nationalists who backed his rise to power had been grumbling about his hosting the Chinese dictator.

Much more rides on the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. Mr Abe intends them to foster the patriotism whose absence among ordinary Japanese he laments. He wants the games to make Japan seem open, global and even multicultural. And, though vastly over budget, they are to crown the prime minister’s seven-year rule.

To cancel the games would generate not only disappointment among ordinary Japanese but anger at the wasted expense they have already had to bear. But a pandemic would take the decision out of his hands—not least, says Nakano Koichi of Sophia University, because the Olympic village would be “a cruise ship on land”. Bet on a postponement of the games at the very least, and on a long delay before the prime minister’s popularity shines again.

https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/03/07/japan-may-have-to-cancel-the-olympics?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/2020/03/5n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/EU/420030/n

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | 1 Comment

Will coronavirus cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

March 6, 2020

Games on? Or Games over?

It would be one of the biggest sports news stories ever.

The postponement – or cancellation – of the world’s greatest sporting mega-event because of coronavirus would be unprecedented in peacetime.

The 2020 Olympics are due to take place in Tokyo from 24 July to 9 August – here are some of the key questions as the Olympic movement faces up to unchartered territory.

What is the latest in Japan?

There is inevitably mounting concern; Japan’s proximity to China where the outbreak began, the postponement of Tokyo 2020 volunteer training, the restrictions placed on last weekend’s Tokyo marathon where only elite runners were allowed to participate, the suspension of J-League matches and other sports events, and the country’s closure of schools.

The Asia Sevens rugby tournament, which was due to be a pre-Games test event held in Tokyo next month, was cancelled on Wednesday.

The news came just as International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach was facing the media in Lausanne, after a two-day executive board meeting.

Tokyo 2020 organisers had also agreed to scale back the torch relay in response to coronavirus, with the lighting of the flame due to take place in Greece next week.

Japan’s Olympics minister broke ranks on Tuesday, saying that Tokyo’s contract with the IOC allowed for the Games to be postponed until later this year.

What has the IOC said?

 

_111157138_bach_gettyPresident Thomas Bach says the IOC remains ‘fully committed’ to Tokyo 2020

At the news conference on the banks of Lake Geneva, Bach fended off a barrage of questions about whether the Olympics could be delayed.

The admission 24 hours earlier from Japan’s Olympics minister perhaps forced Bach into a hastily arranged and unscheduled statement, in which he tried to make clear his confidence the event would proceed as planned, and urged athletes to prepare “full steam”.

At his news conference the following day, Bach struck an even more defiant tone.

He denied having a ‘Plan B’, refused to be drawn on when any decision could be made and remarkably insisted that the words “cancellation” and “postponement” were not even mentioned during the meeting.

The president did admit to a “challenge” when it came to the cancelling of some qualifying events, as has the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), which has also said qualification criteria will be reviewed as a result.

In a letter to athletes on Thursday, Bach seemed to reveal a little more realism, admitting the coronavirus was “a major concern for all of us” and was “a major subject of discussion” at the executive board meeting.

When asked what exactly his confidence was based on, Bach referred to the guidance the IOC is receiving from the World Health Organisation, part of a dedicated task-force that is now in regular dialogue, without explaining what that advice actually was.

Why no ‘Plan B’?

Bach’s reassuring messaging will no doubt be welcomed by many in Japan, the Olympic movement, its stakeholders, and many athletes.

But some may wonder whether the president is in denial. Or merely delaying the inevitable. Others will ask if it is irresponsible or naive not to have a contingency plan.

The reality is the IOC almost certainly does have a ‘Plan B’. Insiders explain that it always does for unforeseen events at the Olympics, ranging from terrorism and war to natural disasters and boycotts.

As Bach – a man who never gives the impression of panicking – explained in Lausanne, he has been faced with challenges ahead of previous Games before – from the Zika virus and Russia’s state-sponsored doping scandal before Rio 2016, to the threat of nuclear war on the Korean peninsular in the build-up to Pyeongchang 2018.

So perhaps his calm exterior should not come as too great a surprise. The IOC operates in something of a bubble after all, and will not be pushed into an expression of alarm just because some in the outside world expects it.

Perhaps this is wise. This crisis comes with the IOC facing a challenge to persuade cities to bid to host Games at the best of times. Bach is hardly going to rush into cancelling or delaying Tokyo 2020 – and perhaps in doing so deter other cities from bidding in the future – until it becomes absolutely necessary.

Why no decision yet?

 

_111157140_olympics_coronavirus_getty2The 2020 Olympics are due to run from 24 July to 9 August

Firstly, because it may be premature. If the Games were being held now, it is hard to see how it could proceed as planned given the current approach of the Japanese authorities to mass gatherings and thousands of athletes in close proximity to each other in the village. But if, as many hope, the outbreak peaks, and then eases in the summer months, then it would be Games on.

And secondly, if the IOC were to publicly countenance a delay or cancellation, it would almost certainly have a detrimental effect, harming sales of tickets and hospitality packages, worrying athletes, and harming the all-important broadcast and sponsorship partners who ultimately bankroll the Olympic movement.

The only exception to this stance so far has come from long-serving IOC member Dick Pound, who last week admitted a decision to cancel could be made as late as May.

Ultimately, the situation is fluid and developing all the time, and just because Bach is confident now, it does not mean the situation will not change. So his words should be viewed with that in mind.

Who decides?

Under the heading ‘Termination’, clause 66 of the official Tokyo 2020 host city contract gives the IOC the authority to “withdraw the Games from the city” in the event of war (as happened in 1916, 1940 and 1944), civil disorder or boycott, or if the organisation believes that the safety of participants would be threatened “for any reason whatsoever”.

Significantly perhaps, the document states the IOC can also terminate if the Games do not take place in 2020. There is no reference to postponement.

The IOC then, is in control. But ultimately it will act on the advice of the experts at the World Health Organisation – and the Japanese government.

And with so much at stake, until they tell the IOC that to proceed would be irresponsible, expect the show of confidence to be maintained for as long as possible.

Could there be a short delay?

The distinct sense I picked up in Lausanne this week was that the kind of short-term three to four-month delay mooted by Japan’s Olympic Minister is highly unlikely. In fact, almost impossible.

It would certainly be very difficult trying to fit an autumn or winter Games into an already crowded sporting calendar, with so many other international events planned years in advance and potentially impacted.

Under a deal agreed four years ago, more than 5,000 apartments in the athletes’ village are due to be sold to private residents after the Paralympics, so it is unclear whether it would even be possible to accommodate 11,000 competitors and thousands more support staff at a later date in the event of a postponement. The availability of hotel rooms and volunteers would be uncertain.

The IOC’s most important live broadcast partner NBC – which has just announced it has sold a record £970m of advertising for Tokyo 2020 – may also take a dim view of the prospect of the Games clashing with the professional US basketball and NFL seasons, with the obvious negative knock-on effect that would have on audiences.

What are the other options?

  • Stage the Games without fans and behind closed doors, as suggested this week by British Cycling performance director Stephen Park.

Intriguingly, this suggestion was not ruled out by a senior IOC insider when it was put to him in Lausanne as a possible worst-case scenario this week, and the medical directors of international federations have been consulted on their thoughts about this option.

It would make for a strange and diminished Olympic experience of course. TV cameras would be told to focus on the athletes, rather than the empty seats. The Tokyo authorities would have to refund the cost of millions of tickets, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.

But at least the athletes would get to compete. And the IOC would have honoured its commitment to its broadcast partners to stage the event. In Japan, as elsewhere in the world, sports like baseball and sumo wrestling are currently being staged behind closed doors. Could this be the authorities preparing for and learning about how to handle such an approach later in the year? Is Plan B already being rehearsed?

  • Delay it by a whole year.
  • Try to re-locate the event elsewhere.
  • Or cancel it altogether, which as Pound suggested last week, actually feels like the most likely outcome in the event the outbreak prevents the Games taking place as planned.

That may seem unthinkable. The impact would be hard to quantify, But interestingly, it may not be as cataclysmic to the IOC as you may imagine.

The host city contract states that in the event of a cancellation, the local organising committee “waive any claim and right to any form of indemnity, damages or other compensation or remedy of any kind”. So Tokyo could not sue the IOC for damages.

The IOC has built up reserves of about £700m in case a Games is lost, and which would enable it to still support international sports federations and national Olympic committees.

The IOC is thought to have spent about £20m on insurance to cover most of the £800m investment it pumps into each summer Olympics.

On the assumption that its policy covers diseases like coronavirus, the IOC could claim for lost income.

Who would be the biggest losers in the event of cancellation?

The insurance industry, which would suddenly face hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of claims from broadcasters, advertisers, sponsors, hotels, and of course the local organisers themselves, all trying to claw back some of the losses they would incur.

Japan, which may have insurance for lost ticket sales, but would be unable to reclaim the estimated £10bn it has spent on infrastructure and preparation for the Games over the past seven years as it tries to use the event as a means of kickstarting a recovery from the 2011 Tohoku disaster. And it is too late to scale back now. The investment has been made. The loss in tourism revenue would also be a major blow to the country’s struggling economy.

And finally the athletes, men and women who have spent years dreaming of and training for the Games. For many, Tokyo will be their only chance of experiencing the Olympics.

When one considers just how much is at stake, perhaps it is no surprise that Bach seems so reluctant to even contemplate the suggestion of a delay or cancellation, and is in no rush to take a decision before he needs to.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/51756253?fbclid=IwAR11M2zwZipPSE2mshgXCAd6SvnBxDyBfyJvFIKpWh1XOY6Lg-nxPVDfgYs

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | 1 Comment

Work on Fukushima plant, halted during 2016 G7 summit, to continue during Tokyo Olympics

jhlkùWorkers are seen near storage tanks for radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020

March 4, 2020

TOKYO (Reuters) – Decommissioning work at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power station, halted during a G7 summit in Japan in 2016, will not stop during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the plant operator said.

There are about a third fewer workers now – 4,000 compared with 6,000 in 2016 – which makes the decision to keep working easier, said Akira Ono, Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) chief decommissioning officer.

When I was the plant manager, I suspended operations at the time of the Ise-Shima summit. But the situation is totally different now,” Ono told Reuters in an interview.

Although the coronavirus outbreak – which has sickened more than 1,000 Japanese – has disrupted supply chains, there has been no shortage of protective gear at the plant, he added. Workers must wear special clothing to protect them from residual radiation in some parts of the facility.

There was a time when coverall supply became quite tight … But after talking with various sources, we are now sure that we can procure what we need,” Ono said in the interview conducted on Tuesday but embargoed till Wednesday.

A powerful earthquake and tsunami hit eastern Japan in March 2011 and knocked out cooling systems at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Since then, the operator has been working to clean up the damage and contain any spread of radiation.

For the last nine years, Tepco has been pouring water over melted reactor cores to keep them cool. Nearly 1.2 million tonnes of tainted water, enough to fill 480 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is stored at the plant. The company treats the water to remove most radioactive material.

A government panel reviewing potential disposal methods has recommended releasing the water into the sea after dilution. Local residents, fishermen in particular, strongly oppose the ocean discharge.

Ono said that the plant will likely run out of tank space by summer 2022.

The time is getting near,” Ono said, referring to a decision on the disposal method. “We are cutting it very close.”

Japanese trade and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said last month the government would decide after hearing opinions from people in local communities and others, without committing to a deadline.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-disaster-fukushima/work-on-fukushima-plant-halted-during-2016-g7-summit-to-continue-during-tokyo-olympics-idUSKBN20R0ZJ

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment