Covid-19, repeated scandals … Are the Tokyo Olympics, which open this Friday, cursed?

By winning the organization of the 2020 Olympic Games in 2013, Japan is exulting. Two years after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, this battered country sees the Olympics as a chance to turn the page. They will also be nicknamed in the land of the rising sun the “Reconstruction games”.

Yet no one saw the obstacles coming, from the global pandemic to the cascading scandals, which now punctuate the competition bringing together the best athletes in the world. The opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday July 23. “L’Obs” looks back on the events that gave a bitter taste to these 32es Olympics of the modern era.

  • Olympics postponed for a year

At the end of 2019 in China, the Covid-19 appears for the first time. In a few weeks, it spreads around the world and in the spring of 2020, the entire planet lives cloistered. The Olympic organizing committee was forced, on March 24, 2020, to announce the postponement of the Games for one year, a first in peacetime.

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This postponement and the measures against Covid-19 entail an additional cost of 2.3 billion euros, bringing the total official budget for the Olympic Games to 13 billion euros.

However, nothing is yet decided. Monday, just a few hours before the start of the first events (which took place even before the opening ceremony), Toshiro Muto, the general manager of the Games, did not rule out the cancellation given the number of contaminations in the village. Olympic despite all the precautions taken.

  • The public finally banned

Among these precautions, the prohibition of foreign supporters from coming to Japan. In early July, Japanese Games Minister Tamayo Marukawa decided even more firmly: there will be no public during the events taking place in Tokyo due to the state of health emergency.

In the process, two other regions announced the closed session for their sporting events: Hokkaido and Fukushima. Some nightly events, such as football matches after 9 p.m. in Ibaraki County, will also be closed to the public.

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Elsewhere, a 50% gauge applies, up to a limit of 10,000 people. A drawing of lots determines who among the ticket holders can attend the competitions.

The opening ceremony this Friday is also taking place behind closed doors. Only 950 VIP guests, including heads of state, will be able to attend.

  • Unenthusiastic Japanese

Without an audience, the mood is gloomy in Japan, even more so in Tokyo. And now, the vast majority of Japanese say they are against the organization of the Olympics in their country because of the health situation, according to polls. A petition calling for their cancellation was also signed by more than 350,000 people and delivered to the governor of Tokyo in mid-May.

Faced with the discontent of a large part of the population, the daily “Asahi Shimbun”, one of the official partners of the Olympic Games, has been calling for the Games to be canceled since May.

The event is so unpopular that sponsors like Toyota, Panasonic and Bridgestone no longer wish to be associated with what should have been a big sports party: their leaders will not attend the opening ceremony.

To add to these difficulties, scandals splash the organizers of the Games. In 2019, the first: the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee Tsunekazu Takeda resigns over a case of bribes around the attribution of the Games in Tokyo, which the French justice is investigating.

At the start of 2021, the new chairman of the Committee sparked a global outcry by declaring that women talk too much at meetings. He resigned on February 12 and was replaced by former Olympic sportswoman and Games Minister Seiko Hashimoto.

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On March 18, the artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies Hiroshi Sasaki resigned in turn: he had previously suggested dressing up a Japanese celebrity with assumed curves as a pig.

Finally, on the eve of the official opening of the Games, the person responsible for the opening ceremony was removed from his post because of a Holocaust joke dating back more than twenty years.

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