Money over pandemic: Political struggle remains at forefront for Tokyo Olympics

Japan 2020

TOKYO — The pandemic continues to keep fans away from attending the Tokyo Olympics as the state emergency stretches to the end of August. Despite Japanese success in the medal count, for around half of the Japanese residents, not all that glitters is gold.

“What we are witnessing in Tokyo is unparalleled in the political history of the Olympics,” said Dr. Jules Boykoff, a political science professor at Pacific University.

Boykoff has written several books on Olympic politics and believes the battle between the pandemic and International Olympic Committee to play on is a pivotal moment.

“What we are looking at now in the 21st century is absolutely unheard of in terms of the pushback inside of the host city and more widely the host country,” says Boykoff.

Look no further than the online petition of over half a million signatures to try to cancel the Olympics.

Just one host city has ever been able to sway the IOC’s mind and reverse course, that would be Denver, Colorado.

“The Olympics in Denver in 1976 never happened and that’s because they were given the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee but a group of people across the ideological spectrum from fiscal conservatives to more left of center environmentalists came together and said we don’t want to host the Olympics and pay for that big party for all these people to come only to maybe destroy our mountain,” says Boykoff.

Without the roar of the crowd and tourism driving revenue, it may not seem not worth it to press forward, but Boykoff says a paycheck speaks louder than the pandemic with around $4 billion to be made by the IOC through broadcasting rights alone.

“In a way a made for tv event is just fine for them because they will still have all that money from broadcasters and corporate sponsors rolling into their coffers and they can keep the Olympic machine revving,” says Boykoff.

Despite polls saying over half of the Japanese residents are against hosting the Olympics in a pandemic, not even Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga could pull the plug.

“And he has stated publicly that he is actually not able to cancel the Olympics. According to the host contract that was signed long before he got into office as prime minister, that power resides with the International Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee only,” says Boykoff.

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