All Roads — blocked off roads — lead to Tokyo Olympics


TOKYO — Roads were being closed off Tuesday around Tokyo Olympic venues, including the new $1.4 billion National Stadium where the opening ceremony is set for July 23.

This is a clear sign that Tokyo Olympic planners and the International Olympic Committee are moving forward despite public opposition, warnings about the risks of the games becoming a spreader event, and Tokyo and other parts of Japan being under a state of emergency until June 20.

“Today we are only 45 days away from the opening ceremony, although the state of emergency is in effect and the situation remains severe nationwide,” organizing committee President Seiko Hashimoto told an executive board meeting Tuesday. “The number of new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo has started to decrease little by little and we strongly hope the situation will be under control as soon as possible.”

New infections in Tokyo are down to around 500 cases a day from 1,000 a month ago. The number of hospitalizations and the seriously ill have also decreased, but the levels are still higher than some levels of last fall when COVID-19 variants were not prevalent in Japan.

Experts last week on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s pandemic panel said that movement of people in central Tokyo had been rising for three weeks. They warned new infections could rebound if people continue to increase their mobility.

The Prime Minister’s office said that 3.66% of Japanese were fully vaccinated as of Monday. It said 10.7% had at least one shot in what has been a slow vaccine rollout.

Japan has attributed about 13,500 deaths to COVID-19, good by some standards but not as low as many countries in Asia.

Dr. Hiroshi Oshitani, a virologist at Tohoku University and a government adviser, reminded about the potential spread of infection in Japan and in other countries after the Olympics.

“The government and the IOC … keep saying they’re holding a safe Olympics,” Oshitani was quoted saying in the Times of London. “But everybody knows there is a risk. It’s 100% impossible to have an Olympics with zero risk.”

Pushback against the Olympics remains strong with 50-80% opposed to the games going ahead depending how the question is phrased. Saitama prefecture, just north of Tokyo, on Monday called off plans for two public viewing areas.

Kaori Yamaguchi, an Olympic bronze medalist for Japan in judo in 1988 and a Japanese Olympic Committee board member, wrote last week that Tokyo and Japan had been “cornered” into holding the Olympics.

The IOC is pressing ahead, reliant on broadcast rights for 73% of its income.

Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics, and government audits say it’s much larger. All but $6.7 billion is private money. The IOC’s overall contribution is about $1.5 billion.

In the latest numbers provided by local organizers, 11,090 Olympians are lined up to enter Tokyo. In addition, 59,000 other people will enter for the Olympics.

They include: Olympic Family (3,000); national Olympic committees (14,800); international sports federations (4,500); Olympic Broadcasting Service and other broadcasters (16,700); media (5,500); others (14,500).

So that means 70,090 for the Olympics.

The Paralympics involve 4,400 athletes, plus 19,000 more in categories similar to the Olympic breakdown.

That’s 23,400 for the Paralympics, meaning 93,490 for both events. Organizers say this number is 50% less than the original forecast of 180,000 entering for the Paralympics and Olympics.

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