Photo/Illutration A view of the Olympic flame in a lantern, after the "One Step Forward - +1 Message - TOKYO 2020" video message unveiling event at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23 (Pool Photo via AP)

Had the Tokyo Olympics kicked off as scheduled, images of the Opening Ceremony of this quadrennial sporting extravaganza would have dominated The Asahi Shimbun's front page this morning.

Today marks the start of the 363-day countdown to the rescheduled Games.

But instead of any eager anticipation, all I really feel is something like a mild case of post-party depression, and this makes me wonder why.

In fact, the more I think about the necessary conditions for holding the Olympics one year from now, the more pessimistic I become.

First and foremost, a COVID-19 vaccine must be developed. But even if commercial production starts after successful clinical tests, the vaccine's top priority recipients around the world should be front-line healthcare professionals and people with underlying health conditions.

I have no idea how much vaccines will be needed to go around all Olympians and visitors to the Games.

The Asahi Shimbun's July 23 issue quoted Olympic athletes from around the world, and their words suggest that the present situation hardly warrants optimism.           

"I don't care if there are no spectators, so long as there is a venue for deciding who the world's best athletes are."

But another noted, "If the Games must be canceled, so be it. The lives of all people matter."

A South African triathlete explained that the closure of their local swimming pool has forced them to rely solely on their small backyard pool for training. "It's unfair that some are disadvantaged by not being able to train sufficiently because of the pandemic," the athlete pointed out.

The reality is a far cry from the ideal environment in which every athlete can train to their utmost.

In "The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games," author Tony Perrottet describes how athletes trained for the Ancient Olympics.

Many started working out with their coaches 10 months before the Games. They donned armor and a helmet when they ran, and one training method called for gradually increasing the weight of their armor.

The seriousness of athletes has not changed over time.

With the number of infections exceeding 15 million worldwide, do Olympic athletes--who are the stars of the Games--have access to an environment that really allows them to prepare themselves fully?

This is a much more important matter to consider than political face-saving or the wishes of sponsors. 


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 25

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.