Tokyo Olympics were supposed to open Friday. Instead, the city is facing a spike in coronavirus cases.
By MIRIAM BERGER | The Washington Post | Published: July 23, 2020
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If all had gone according to plan, Tokyo would awake tomorrow to the opening day of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Instead, the city is grappling with a spike in coronavirus infections, with 366 new cases reported Thursday, a daily record.
The rescheduled Summer Games are set for a year from Thursday. Japan marked the moment with a 15-minute ceremony held in Tokyo's newly built Olympic Stadium, absent an audience.
The 68,000-seat arena cost $1.4 billion. But a poll this week by Japan's Kyodo News Agency found that fewer than one in four people in Japan even want to host the games anymore. One-third of respondents said the games should be canceled, while 36% expressed interest in postponing them for more than a year.
"If current situation continues, we couldn't [host], "Tokyo Olympics organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
On Thursday, Japan recorded more than 830 new coronavirus cases, setting a new daily high for the country one day after beating the old record rise. Since January, Japan has confirmed more than 28,700 cases and 1,005 deaths related to COVID-19.
Japan lifted its state of emergency two months ago, after containing an initial coronavirus outbreak. But, under pressure to reopen the economy, the government has said it won't return to major shutdowns even as cases in this second wave continue to rise.
The numbers in Japan remain extremely low compared to hotspots such as the United States and Brazil. The number of serious cases in the latest wave, at least so far, has remained low, with more aggressive testing in place.
With so much uncertainty over the trajectory of the pandemic and the progress of vaccine efforts, it remains impossible to predict what life will look like in Tokyo in a year's time.
Publicly, organizers for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics remain largely upbeat. But they have not commented on whether fans will be able to attend the rescheduled events, or if there are plans to quarantine participants.
"It would be too much for us to answer each of these hypothetical questions," Mori said Wednesday. "I don't think this situation will last for another year."
He added, "Whether the Olympics can be done or not is about whether humanity can beat the coronavirus. Specifically, to develop a vaccine or drug is the first point."
If the competition cannot be held next summer, organizers said they would cancel it entirely, rather than postpone once more.