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The scandals around the preparation of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Tokyo won in 2013 the bid to host the 2020 Olympics arguing that it would be a good event to help Japan recover up from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe triggered in 2011 by the largest earthquake in the country's recent history and a subsequent tsunami that left an ecological and material disaster with more than 16,000 persons dead.

But the organization of these games has been full of scandals. A French judicial investigation in 2019 found guilty the President of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tzunekazu Takeda, of buying votes to win the support of African countries after finding irregularities in the Committee's finances. Takeda was forced to resign and his accountant, Moriya Yasushi, was found dead in June 2021 with no suicide note.

Other cases include the director of the opening ceremony was forced to resign after it emerged recently that he made anti-Semitic comments in 1998 during a television comedy show in which he said that he 'had many human paper figures that came from the time in which they played the Holocaust’. Additionally, the composer of the opening ceremony was also fired for admitting without regrets that he bullied children with Down Syndrome in schools when he was a student. Also, the President of the Tokyo 2020 Foundation, in charge of organizing the Games, was dismissed after making sexist comments in February saying that 'women talk too long in meetings', and the same happened with the creative director of the opening ceremony after he recommended a Japanese plus-size model to dress up as a pig for this event.

Moreover, many problems came during the preparation of the 2020/2021 Tokyo Olympics:

• Reports that workers, specially immigrants brought from Thailand, were doing 250 hours of work per month, many times without rest days, to build sports venues, and causing even some cases of suicide.

• Illegal deforestation in the jungles of Indonesia to bring a special type of wood to the Olympic Village, and the use of toxic materials, such as asbestos, in the construction of sports stadiums.

• The copy in 2015 of the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that was inspired on the Liege Theater in Belgium. Japan's Olympic Committee said first that the design had gone through an "extremely rigorous originality verification process." Weeks later, however, it was revealed that the author of the Olympic logo had a history of plagiarism and an open competition was set up to select the one that currently is used for the Games.

• Inclusion in Japan's Olympic maps of islands that belong to Russia and South Korea but that Japan claims as its own, and the imperial flag used during World War II which for many Asian countries is like seeing the Nazi swastika.

The Summer and Winter Olympic Games are projects that generate economic losses to the host city and country. Generally, the ratio between total costs and revenues for the event is 3 to 1, with Beijing 2008 being the one with the biggest economic losses so far with a cost of 40 billion dollars and revenues of just 3.6 billions. However, there are some benefits that tend to be reflected in the long run by improving infrastructure, as well as promoting the city and culture of the host country.

Around 70% of the Japanese do not agree that the Olympic Games are being held at this time. They accuse that the government has been very bad handling the pandemic; higher death rates have been registered in cities like Osaka than in heavily affected countries like India, delay in the application of vaccines with only 10% of the Japanese population fully vaccinated just 1 month before the start of the Olympics, and manipulation of government figures on Covid so that the Games are not canceled.

This popular unrest has led Emperor Naruhito, elite athletes and corporate giants such as Toyota and Rakuten to withdraw their full support for the event. Nonetheless, the Japanese government has not the power to decide whether or not to cancel the Games. This corresponds exclusively to the International Olympic Committee and all governments have to respect the commercial contracts signed from the beginning. What is at stake economically, together with the national prestige of organizing the Summer Games just before the Winter Games to be held in Beijing in 2022, being China the great rival power, made impossible for Japanese political leaders not to continue with the plan of holding the Olympics this year in Tokyo. Despite the fact that supporters will not be allowed to enter stadiums and that athletes will be prohibited from any contact with the local population, there is a big fear that Covid cases may explode.


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