The 2020 Summer Olympics kicked off on July 23 with a crowd of protesters gathered outside of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium denouncing Japanese leaders and the International Olympics Committee for insisting on holding the pandemic-delayed competition in spite of the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. On Sunday, the Tokyo Games wrapped with...a crowd of protesters gathered outside of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium denouncing Japanese leaders and the International Olympics Committee for insisting on holding the pandemic-delayed competition in spite of the ongoing coronavirus health crisis.
As the final medals were awarded to competing athletes inside the stadium—with the United States closing the Games with the most gold medals (39) and the most medals total (113), per CNN—an assemblage of approximately 50 protesters chanted of “We don’t need the Olympics, nor the Paralympics!” and “Stop the closing ceremony!” outside, Euronews reports. Some of the demonstrators also carried signs calling attention to the hundreds of Japanese families and elderly citizens whom the city and national governments evicted to clear space for the stadium’s construction—an Olympic tradition, it would seem.
While fears that having tens of thousands of athletes, journalists, and other individuals affiliated with the Olympics would worsen the coronavirus pandemic in Japan—where just over 30% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to BBC News—the Games have not increased local COVID-19 transmission, introduced new variants to the island nation, nor overwhelmed its hospital system, Reuters reports. The IOC reportedly managed to maintain its “bubble” of more than 50,000 people, and, in the end, reported only 404 Games-related infections.
Still, some Japanese health experts say that Tokyo 2020's impact on Japan’s experience of the pandemic has yet to be seen. Koji Wada, a professor of public health at the International University of Health and Welfare, told Reuters that the government’s insistence on hosting the Games has undermined public health messaging around staying home, wearing masks, and avoiding public gatherings.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Tokyo, nonetheless, with the city recording over 5,000 new cases on Thursday, the Associated Press reports—a record for the Japanese capital. Some experts have attributed this rise in cases to the general public not cooperating with recommended health measures intended to slow the spread of the virus—a wariness those same experts attribute to the government’s apparent hypocrisy in hosting the largest sporting event during the pandemic to date.