Tokyo Games

Back in the summer of 2012, I had been off work for a while after a breakdown, but was making all efforts to feel better about myself. 

Out of the blue, I got a call from Gerry, with whom I had been working for a charity he ran on my then home island of Jersey. “Hi Rog, d’you fancy a day out for us four in London next Thursday?” he asked.  The 2012 London Olympics was at its halfway stage, and it suddenly occurred to me that, for the first time in my working life, I could say “Yes” at short notice without worrying about letting someone down at work. We checked we could fly from Jersey to London City that day, and indeed we spent a fantastic day in and around Hyde Park, just sampling and enjoying the unbelievable atmosphere created by thousands of visitors from all over the world.

And what a city we found. My goodness, even the normally dour and tight-lipped Londoners on the tube and the trains were talking to everybody. We had Australians clutching 6-foot toy kangaroos squeezing into a jam-packed tube train, but it was all fun and laughter, and really quite intoxicating. We all agreed it was unforgettable.

Empty Seats in Sports Stadium

Very sadly, it will not be like that at all in Tokyo in a few days’ time. No spectators, no public gatherings, no fun and no laughter. Japan is enduring an extremely torrid spell with the pandemic. Infections have already hit at least seven teams arriving in the country with the opening ceremony barely a week away. The host city Tokyo has also reported its highest daily tally of new COVID-19 infections since January. This just goes to highlight the enormous risks involved in holding the world’s largest sporting event during a global pandemic, and, lest we forget, in a largely unvaccinated country.

I think it’s utter madness. Yes, I feel for the competitors of course. They were already honing their fitness levels so that they could peak in July 2020, only to have their hopes dashed by the pandemic. They all had to start again to make sure they would be ready for July 2021. For them, it must be unthinkable to cancel the Games at this stage. But cancelled it should have been, a long time ago, maybe at the beginning of this year when it became quite clear that the virus was going nowhere and, if anything, was getting a wee bit out of control.

So here’s my question for the I.O.C., (the International Olympic Committee): Just what will the staging of this massive event actually achieve, and for whom is it all for? I think you all probably know the answer. Certainly, up to 80 per cent of the Japanese public have said they do not want it going ahead, nobody can witness any of the events, apart from the silent, soulless TV coverage, and there will be no visitors. Except the athletes, officials, journalists, sponsors and support staff right now descending on Tokyo from around our virus-infected planet; they number 70,000!

Roger Bara

Even with the strictest measures in force around them, it’s still utter, utter madness to be even contemplating this event.  I see it merely as an exercise in folly amid a global pandemic that has up to now claimed the lives of four million people. And rising.

The IOC should be utterly ashamed of themselves. 

Should the Olympics go ahead?

Well of course not! But guess what? There is no choice in the matter because the Olympics are no longer the Olympics, except in name. Today’s games are a huge money machine that must be fed billions.

Television networks across the world have put up many hundreds of millions of dollars for the “rights” to air the games. All the cheap plastic trinkets have already been moulded… heaping piles of them. Hotels have been remodeled and restaurants have printed new menus with sky-high prices. All those bribes wasted… I mean, rights to hold the games paid.

Empty Stadium

So now there is a problem: how can we salvage a few hundred million from this dumpster fire? First, as always, make some noble BS speech about how we care about the athletes and the Olympic “spirit”. Second, get that television revenue!

And so the games will go on. And Japan’s taxpayers will pay. None of this was ever in doubt.

Tokyo has little say in the matter: they signed contracts and the IOC gets to say if the games will go on or not. The BBC adds “Current polls in Japan show nearly 70% of the population do not want the Olympics to go ahead, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains steadfast that the spectacle will take place.” 

Yes, I am anti-Olympics but it’s more than that; I think amateur sports in general are a money powered lie. Let me give you an example: the last place I lived in in America was the Great Smoky Mountains (yes, that’s how it’s spelt.) Not far away was the University of Tennessee. They have a football stadium that holds over 100,000 people. Think about that. And the players get nothing.

Photograph of Dean Lewis

So, the people of Japan will not have their wishes respected. Vast sums of money will be lost and television ratings will probably be low. No fans, no cheering, just empty. But hey, look at the bright side! The IOC got their money.

Should the Olympics go ahead? 

My former long-time girlfriend is Japanese. Plus, she is a TV journalist in a Japanese media company. I occasionally help her in editing her business letters in Russian. Her company is now in active communication with some Russian media companies, such as Match-TV, that plan to cover the Tokyo Olympics. 

Because of this I know what people in Japan think about the Olympics. Unlike with previous events, the Tokyo1964 Summer Olympics, and the Sapporo 1972 and Nagano 1998 Winter Games, the public is now fed up. 

If Tokyo 1964 trumpeted the country’s comeback to the world after World War II, if Sapporo and Nagano were the next steps on the way to becoming ‘Cool Japan’, the current Games are being shadowed by the COVID-19 fatigue. 

First, it was the re-scheduling (just like Euro 2020). Then, of course, not letting the fans come into the country. No people, no support, no roar from the stands. Such a move was probably the most destructive in terms of ruining the Olympic spirit but inevitable in the context. I’m not surprised that the audience is not excited at all. According to polls, most of the Japanese oppose the Games taking place. The symbol of prestige turned into a sign of tiredness. Empty stands and empty stadiums are looming ahead… 

I’d say, though, the Olympics, nevertheless, should go on. The COVID horror is soon to be ended and it is not in sport’s spirit to give up. 

Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

The Olympic torch must go on from Tokyo into the future for the next games to live on. The Olympic spirit is unbeatable. The Olympics should definitely go ahead.