The World Today for July 23, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

JAPAN

Laurels in Silence

Victorious Olympic athletes will put on their own medals at the Tokyo games this summer. “The medals will not be given around the neck,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said in an announcement covered by Newsweek. “They will be presented to the athlete on a tray, and then the athlete will take the medal him or herself.”

That was but one sad measure that Olympic officials opted to enact for the Games that open July 23 until Aug. 8 after a one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Local Japanese authorities have banned spectators from the events, ABC News reported. Even so, as the Associated Press noted, tens of thousands of athletes and support staff have converged on Olympic facilities to compete.

Clusters of Covid-19 infections have already shown up among the crowds of international folks, Reuters added. The Russian women’s rugby team’s massage therapist tested positive, for example, forcing the whole team into isolation as authorities tested and traced other cases. Japanese staff at a hotel where Brazilian athletes had been staying also got sick.

“The Olympics are not only just a local potential superspreading event in a poorly vaccinated country but [could perhaps become] a global superspreading event,” University of California, San Francisco infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong said in an interview with Scientific American.

Polls show that the vast majority of Japanese feel unsafe and do not want the Olympics to proceed. About 23 percent of the Japanese public have been fully vaccinated, the BBC noted. In the Washington Post, op-ed writer Mike Wise argued that the games were occurring entirely because many large companies had invested heavily in the rights to broadcast the games or sponsored teams as marketing ploys.

Indeed, Sports Illustrated wrote that organizers would lose $800 million in ticket revenues.

Boston-based writer Natalie Shure called for the abolishment of the Olympics altogether, describing them in the New Republic as financial boondoggles that enrich the wealthy, hurt the public and this year could lead to a wildfire-like spread of the virus among many people from different corners of the globe.

Covid-19 is not the only hurdle that games organizers are facing. The scandals started even before Tokyo will open the games, controversies that include bribery, the AP wrote. Countries like Guinea, also plagued by funding issues, backed out due to Covid-19 fears, Yahoo!Sports noted. And on Wednesday, major Olympic sponsor, Toyota, said it was pulling its TV ads to be broadcast during the Games: While supporting the Olympic was once a boon for a company’s image, that association is now seen as a marketing problem in a country so polarized over the event, the AP wrote in another story.

Meanwhile, the games, even without the virus, are a mammoth undertaking. As Bloomberg explained, tests of the water in Tokyo Bay, for example, have detected high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Bach insisted that new sports legends would emerge during these games. He is right. But they shall rise to their anthems without applause and cheers.

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