The Tokyo Olympics are a moral disaster

In 2013, 80-year-old Kohei Jinno was kicked out of his home in Tokyo so that Japan could build a new stadium to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The Olympics regularly raze the houses of people like Jinno, who lived with his wife in an HLM. What sets him apart from millions of others like him is that he was the second time it happened: When the Olympics arrived in Tokyo in 1964, Jinno was also expelled.

Jinno’s story, he told Reuters this week, is a reminder that the Olympic Games are a moral disaster even under normal circumstances. The games are less a sporting event than a plan to transfer public wealth into private coffers – a budget monstrosity which diverts billions of dollars of public money from real public needs, destroy the environment, and dramatically ages the life of an untold number of poor people other racial and ethnic minoritieswhether by robbing their home, criminalizing their livelihoods or simply kick them out of town.

But this year, the games are set amid an ongoing pandemic that threatens to turn these Olympics from a simple disaster into an outright atrocity.

A May poll found that 80% of Japanese oppose hosting the Tokyo Olympics;  the number has declined, but half of Japan sti


Carl Court via Getty Images

A May poll found that 80% of Japanese oppose hosting the Tokyo Olympics; the number has dropped, but half of Japan still want to cancel or postpone the games, which will take place in a country where only 12% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

Japan, which has claimed more than 14,000 deaths from COVID-19, is less than two months away from a massive second wave of coronavirus cases that has almost completely turned public opinion against the Olympics. There are already signs that another peak could occur in Tokyo, where the metropolitan area has seen 12 consecutive days of increase in cases. Tokyo is still partially locked down and the government is considering the extension of a state of emergency beyond its current expiration date of July 11. Only 12% of eligible adults in Japan are fully immunized.

It’s not hard to guess that things could get worse soon, and quickly: the world is currently watching a new strain of the virus – the delta variant – which are more contagious and potentially deadlier than those we have faced in the past 18 months. The variant is already present in nearly 100 countries and is on the way to becoming the dominant strain across the world soon, World Health Organization officials said.

It’s easy to lose sight of how dangerous the pandemic remains from the perspective of the United States and Europe, where high vaccination rates have allowed many of the world’s richest people to return to someplace. something similar to normal. But most of the planet remains unvaccinated and vulnerable. The delta variant is ravaging even these countries, like Vietnam, which had largely succeeded in thwarting the initial spread of the virus. The countries of the world are resume confinements and re-establish protective measures; nations that the virus originally spared, especially in Africa, prepare for disaster.

The pandemic is still an extreme emergency; it’s hard to imagine a worse idea than bringing together some 15,000 athletes and thousands of other coaches, coaches and officials from nearly 200 countries just so they can play sports.

We shouldn’t have the Olympics. It is absolutely clear, to all the epidemiologists I have spoken to, that it makes no sense to bring delegations from all over the world [to Japan].
Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, Duke University

The International Olympic Committee and its cheerleaders like to pretend that there is something virtuous in the Olympic Games. May they bring the world together in times of crisis, may sport help us heal, may the pursuit of gold not really replace the spirit of competition or the positive impact of sports activity on public health . It’s a powerful myth, even if he weakens, and NBC, Coca-Cola, Visa and other large companies will be covering TV screens over the next month with advertisements touting our ability to heal and overcome a scourge that is not over.

Whether continued gambling will lead to new infections and deaths is no longer a guess. The Copa America soccer tournament in Brazil – which vaccinated a slightly larger share of its population than Japan – is already responsible for nearly 200 new cases of COVID-19, a figure many public health experts consider like a drastic undercoverage. The tournament may have accelerated the spread of the lambda variant, which has hit Peru and is already present in 27 countries, in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, the most affected region in the world. The Copa America involves only 10 teams with a maximum size of 28 players.

At least in Brazil there are no fans. The European football championships are currently taking place across the Atlantic and mainly in crowded stadiums. Over the past week, the number of coronavirus cases in Europe increased by 10%, reversing a period in which the total number of infections had decreased for 10 consecutive weeks. The continent as a whole has some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, but Euro 2020 will likely further accelerate the arrival of a new wave of cases, according to public health experts. told Reuters this week. Much like the Copa, the tournament is a much smaller undertaking than an Olympics, and whatever dangers have arisen during it, they will almost certainly be pale compared to what is happening in Tokyo. .

“We shouldn’t have the Olympics,” said Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University scientist who modeled the COVID-19 outbreak in Brazil and responses to it in hard-hit states , and criticized his country’s decision to host the Copa America amid one of the world’s worst epidemics. “It is absolutely clear to any epidemiologist I have spoken to that it makes no sense to bring delegations from all over the world [to Japan]. “

The Japanese public, Japanese doctors, and many Japanese officials need not be reminded. More … than 80% of Japanese opposed to hosting the games in a May poll, and although that number has declined in recent weeks, half of the population in favor of the cancellation of the Olympic Games. Japanese nurses spoke out against the games after organizers called for 500 of them to be sent to provide volunteer medical services around the event: the request “shows how light human life is,” a nurse told the Associated Press in May. hosting the event could lead to the development of a “Olympic variant“From the virus; Public health officials there and around the world have said the Olympics will likely become a super-broadcaster event. In May, nine Japanese governors requested the cancellation or postponement of matches.

The International Olympic Committee doesn’t care. The Olympic host city contract, the dictatorial and undemocratic agreement that obliges cities and countries to give up their ability to govern themselves in the service of entertainment, does not allow someone other than the IOC cancel, postpone or “make significant changes to the scope” of the games. The IOC has no interest in doing so. There is money to be made, so the show must go on.

Protesters calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics marched through the city in mid-June.  Japanese doctors have war


Takashi Aoyama via Getty Images

Protesters calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics marched through the city in mid-June. Japanese doctors have warned that holding the games amid the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to the creation of an “Olympic variant” of the virus that is spreading across the world.

The Tokyo Games will further expose the essential truth of the Olympic movement, which is that it is not about sport at all; the games are a scam intended to further enrich the already wealthy few. Everyone else – the poor whose homes are in the wrong places, the native forests and people who inhabit them, the Japanese nurse who has to treat an Olympic executive or athlete at the expense of a COVID-19 patient, the employee of the hotel that is infected because thousands of people who shouldn’t be in Japan nonetheless – is fully consumable.

Maybe it’s worth it for you, and maybe it’s worth it for the athletes who will be heading to Tokyo to make their lifelong dreams come true. It’s not the fault of the fans, or the athletes who have trained their entire lives for a single moment of glory, that those responsible created a destructive event and are using the participants as human shields to hide the problems the games cause. and exacerbate with devastating regularity.

But most fans and athletes are also poorly served by the Olympic setup. Simone Biles should be able to set new standards for what gymnasts can do at events that are not designed to inflict unnecessary suffering. Olympic athletes and those who don’t quite make it, should be free to compete in high performance sports which do not systematically subject them to physical, emotionally, financial and, as we learned in the United Statesor even sexual abuse. We should be allowed to watch these athletes compete without knowing that Kohei Jinno and others had to lose their homes for that to happen; that the homeless have been swept from the streets so that Olympic tourists do not have to see them; that a rare forest had to be cut down to build a place that will no longer be useful in six weeks; or that the athletes must have suffered because we decided that was the right thing to do.

If that was not possible, the continued existence of the Olympics no longer had any moral justification, even before COVID-19 has ravaged the world. The games are, as I wrote three years ago, a scourge whose only cure was the death of the CIO and a model that is not reformable or recoverable in anything resembling its current form. That these Olympics continue even though they could become a vehicle for mass death via the literal plague should lead the world to one logical and moral conclusion: the Olympics should not and cannot continue to exist. Not in Japan, never again.

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