Photo/Illutration Seiko Hashimoto, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee head, center, and Tamayo Marukawa, the state minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, right, attend an online meeting in Tokyo on April 28 with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, shown on the video monitors. (Pool)

The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee’s website calls on people to offer donations to support the event by saying, “Your support and encouragement will give a boost to the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

But the reality makes it difficult for people to offer support and encouragement to the Summer Games, scheduled to start in July and August, respectively. 

As part of efforts to prevent infections with the new coronavirus during the competition, organizers have announced a revised Playbook (rules of conduct and protocols to follow) for athletes, coaches and team officials.

According to Playbook edition 2, foreign athletes and team officials will be required to receive two COVID-19 tests done on two separate days within 96 hours of their departure for Japan and once every day after entering the country.

To get around, they will be required to use only “dedicated Games vehicles” and will be allowed to leave their accommodations only to go to official Games venues and limited additional locations, such as destinations critical for the Games.

They will be required to submit an “Activity Plan” that outlines their activities during their stay for the Games. Failure to comply with these rules may result in the withdrawal of accreditation and right to participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to the Playbook.

The Playbook spells out strict anti-COVID 19 measures based on advice from experts. The challenge will be how to ensure that they are strictly followed.

More than 10,000 athletes will come from around the world to participate in the huge international sports event. The number will be several times larger if other officials and executives required to follow rules specified in other versions of the playbooks are counted.

It will be a tall order to check all these people’s compliance with the rules. The effectiveness of the measures will, after all, depend on the good faith and voluntary cooperation of these individuals.

Since athletes will enjoy some privileges, such as being allowed to start practicing immediately after their arrivals, any serious noncompliance will draw strong criticism about the Games as a whole.

Organizers have postponed their decision on whether to allow spectators in to watch the events, which was to be made by the end of April. They say the decision will be made in June in the light of restrictions on other sports events to be held in Japan.

This is also baffling. How do they intend to work out plans and establish systems for medical care when it remains unclear whether and how many spectators will be allowed in?

It has been revealed that the organizing committee asked the Japanese Nursing Association to provide some 500 nurses to help with health care operations during the Games.

The request was made on April 9, when the government decided to apply the new “manen boshi” (prevention of the spread) program of pre-emergency measures to Tokyo and other areas.

The organizing committee has offered no explanation about reasons for making the request or about whether and how the move was related to the government's assessment that up to 300 doctors and 400 nurses will be needed daily for the event. The government gave this assessment in response to a question asked at the Diet in February.

The organizing committee cannot hope to win the association’s agreement to the request in such a way.

The organizing committee says such medical support for the Games should not in any way negatively affect local health care systems. But the request inevitably makes many people suspect that the committee is placing higher priority on the event than on the lives and health of the people.

During a recent meeting of top Olympic policymakers, Tamayo Marukawa, the state minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike engaged in heated exchanges over issues concerning health care and information sharing.

The two also previously raised concern among the public by publicly disagreeing over how the cost of the Olympics should be shared.

When organizers are in disarray, it is difficult for society to give sincere support to the event at a time when it is struggling with the pandemic.

Shigeru Omi, the chairman of the government panel of experts dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, attracted attention with his remarks about the Olympics during the April 28 session of the Lower House Health, Labor and Welfare Committee.

Omi, who had avoided discussing the wisdom of holding the event under the current circumstances, said, “It is time to have serious debate (on the issue) while taking account of the levels of infections and the burden borne by the health care system.”

Organizers and policymakers have often said the decision has been made to hold the event and the only question is how to do it. But the situation no longer allows this argument.

It is clearly time to make a tough-minded assessment of the viability of holding the event based on the cold reality.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 30