June 16, 2021

for the Japanese, the Olympics are not worth the candle

On May 17, it is 7 p.m. in Ginza, and this upscale district of Tokyo is preparing to lower the curtain, as required by the state of emergency in force in ten prefectures of Japan. However, a few hundred demonstrators gather in front of an entrance to the Shimbashi subway to shout – in peace and under police surveillance – their hostility to the thirty-second Summer Olympics (OG). Among the slogans chanted or read on banners, “The Games kill the poor”, “Let’s put out the Olympic flame!” ”, One of them hits the mark:“ Save lives rather than the Games ”.

“Our opposition does not date from the pandemic”, explains Ayako Yoshida. She is a member of Han Gorin (“no to the five rings”), an association opposed to the Olympics, which has been organizing regular events for two months. One of them takes place every Friday under the windows of the Olympic Organizing Committee. “We have long denounced the gentrification, the expulsions that have taken place”, details Ayako Yoshida, for the Olympics that will also “Deprive people of medical resources”.

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Since the beginning of April, the Archipelago has been experiencing a worrying fourth wave, which has weakened in recent days, and 70% of the population lives under a state of emergency (closing of non-essential shops and restaurants at 8 p.m.). Importantly, less than 2% of Japanese had received two doses of the vaccine on May 24, when the country opened its first mass vaccination centers. If the small procession of demonstrators does not raise the enthusiasm of passers-by, their compatriots nevertheless seem to have fallen into a frank hostility towards the Olympic event.

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They fear that the Olympics – and the 94,000 athletes, technical supervisors, members of federations and journalists expected in Tokyo – will encourage an explosion of variants and a congestion of hospitals. A poll published by the daily Asahi Shimbun reported that on the day of the event, 83% of Japanese people are now in favor of canceling (40%) or postponing (43%) the Games, which are due to be held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8.

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It has been several months since the polls pointed to a growing growl, but it had never been so massive. Other polls show that the same majority is disappointed with the measures taken by the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to counter the fourth wave of Covid-19. The discontent prompted lawyer and politician Kenji Utsunomiya to launch an online petition in early May entitled “Cancel the Olympics to protect our lives”. It collected 200,000 signatures in two days and now has twice as many.

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