News ID: 267067
Published: 0914 GMT March 25, 2020

Disappointment in Japan after Tokyo Olympics postponed

Disappointment in Japan after Tokyo Olympics postponed
AP

On Tuesday, the Tokyo 2020 countdown clock showed there were just 122 days to go before the Olympics opening ceremony.

By Wednesday morning, the clock, outside the Tokyo station building, simply displayed the current date and time. The switch was so sudden that commuters paused to take photos, the Guardian reported.

The countdown clock will be reset as soon as organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decide when, exactly, a supposedly post-coronavirus world is ready for the second coming of the Tokyo Games.

Hours after Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo confirmed that the Games would be held “no later than next summer”, some Tokyoites were conflicted about their reaction.

Emi Hagino, a media consultant who was born and raised in the capital, said she had initially accepted the delay as inevitable, but then felt “massively let down”, as it would affect her business.

“My parents remember watching the 1964 Olympics here, so they have experienced it before, but for me it was going to be a magical once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually see the world’s biggest sporting event with my own eyes, with everyone’s focus on my city,” she said.

“I can wait for another year, but please, no longer.”

Koichi Teratani, who blogs about the city’s Kabukicho entertainment district – a popular destination among Chinese tourists – said the postponement was a second blow for local businesses still reeling from the financial costs inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hotels are already struggling from cancellations, so the smaller ones that don’t have the means to weather the storm face even more uncertainty,” said Teratani, who had just started printing 40,000 copies of a bilingual guidebook to Kabukicho – an area packed with thousands of bars, restaurants and clubs – hand out to visitors during the Olympics when the postponement was announced.

“We can hang on to them for another year, even though some of the information might be a bit out of date,” he said.

There was disappointment that the spectacle, more than six years in the planning, had been delayed, but relief, too, both that the speculation of recent weeks had ended and, crucially, that Abe and the IOC president, Thomas Bach, had agreed that cancellation was out of the question.

“I think the Japanese government and the IOC had no choice but to postpone, because holding the Olympics without athletes from around the word would have run counter to the Olympic Charter,” said Akino Yoshihara, a Kyoto-based translator who had been looking forward to watching track and field events.

“It would have been unfair if some athletes had been denied the opportunity to compete because of the coronavirus situation in their countries.”

Yujiro Nakao, a Tokyo company employee, agreed that a delay was the only sensible response to the outbreak, but said he had “mixed feelings” about not being able to see athletes who had spent years preparing for the biggest moment of their careers.

The first postponement in the Olympics’ 124-year modern history is expected to create a financial headache for the myriad businesses with a financial stake in the Games.

The IOC and local organizers will have to renegotiate contracts with official broadcasters and sponsors, and extend rent agreements on venues that, until Tuesday, were to have served their purpose by the time the Paralympics ended in early September.

The Nikkei business delay reported on Wednesday that the organizing committee estimates that the postponement will raise the total cost for the Games by 300 billion yen ($2.7 billion) due to additional labor and other costs. There is no guarantee, either, that the 80,000 volunteers who were due to descend on Tokyo this summer will be available next year.

“Obviously, the celebratory mood of the Olympics had already been fading due to the coronavirus,” an official from one of the Games’ sponsors told the newspaper.

“Perhaps it would not have been fully welcomed if the Games had gone on as scheduled. We just need to start afresh.”

The general mood was best summed up by the Japanese phrase shikata ga nai (it can’t be helped) – a catchall response to any situation, large or small, over which people believe they have no influence. Recent polls indicated that about 70 percent of Japanese people had resigned themselves to a postponement as soon as it became clear that the coronavirus was going to take months, possibly much longer, to bring under control.

Ami Takada, a recent high school graduate, was among those enjoying the spring sunshine in Tokyo on Wednesday who wondered if a one-year delay would be long enough, given the virus’s seemingly unstoppable onslaught.

“If they don’t hold the Olympics [in 2021], it will be the end for the Japanese economy” she said.

 

   
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