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Coronavirus Continues to Threaten Summer Olympics

Apr 6, 2021; Tokyo, JAPAN; General view of the Olympic rings sculpture, Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo Tower as seen from Odaiba in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games set to begin in July 2021. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Summer Olympics were pushed back one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but things have not improved since that time. Tokyo remains committed to hosting the event later this summer, but the country of Japan continues to be hit hard by the virus.

On Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extended the state of emergency to three new areas, including locations where some events are scheduled to take place. This is the second time in a week that Japan has been forced to upgrade the state of emergency.

Suga has repeatedly stressed that his country plans to host the Summer Olympics, but this new development will cause some concern with participants. The island of Hokkaido is set to host the marathon at the Olympic Games, and it was included in the new state of emergency.

One of the strategies that will be used by the country of Japan is to limit the movement of participants and to keep tourists from attending. Suga believes that this will protect his people from further danger, and it will also keep the athletes safe.

Tokyo has already been under a state of emergency, with the orders lasting through May 31. Businesses are forced to close down, and movement is restricted until conditions improve.

A major problem for Japan in the fight against COVID-19 is that just 2% of the population is fully vaccinated. The country has been slow to roll out doses of the vaccine, but residents of the country are also pushing back against the government.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike recently received a petition to cancel the Summer Olympics that was signed by more than 350,000 people. Local residents want the money used to fight the pandemic rather than to host the Summer Olympic Games. 

IOC Ignoring Public Opinion

The International Olympic Committee has heard the outcries from the public to cancel the Summer Olympics, but they are unwilling to move from its stance. The IOC held a virtual news conference on Wednesday to provide an update on the event.

Ironically, that news conference was cut short as an activist interrupted the meeting during a period of questions. The news conference was forced to end prematurely, but the activist got his message out before it ended.

IOC President Thomas Bach was scheduled to visit Japan later this month to check out the progress on the athletic sites, but that visit was ultimately canceled. This added fuel to the fire for those that want to see these games postponed or ultimately canceled. 

The Summer Olympics are set to begin in less than 80 days, and IOC spokesperson Mark Adams pointed out that this sort of feeling is usually present in the weeks leading up to the games. Adams believes that the residents of Tokyo and Japan will begin to show excitement for the games as it gets closer to the beginning.

Olympic qualifying has been held throughout the world in recent months, and a large majority of athletes are still planning to attend. There will be strict COVID-19 protocols in place, which the IOC believes will keep the athletes safe.

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