Rally-Speak Out On Thursday March 11, 2021 3:00 PM Rally On Tenth Anniversary of Fukushima Meltdowns
No More Fukushimas, No Olympic In Japan In the Middle Of Pandemic
San Francisco Japanese Consulate
275 Battery St/California
Sponsored by No Nukes Action
Thursday March 11, 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the earthquake and meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
The nightmare for the people and refugees of Fukushima and Japan continues. They are struggling to survive.
Despite promises that the melted nuclear rods would be removed they have not been and the recent earthquake has added greater dangers.
Two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan have begun leaking cooling water following last weekend's 7.3 magnitude earthquake, indicating that the existing damage to TEPCO's Unit 1 and 3 reactors has worsened, according to Keisuke Matsuo.
The government is also planning to dump over a million tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean despite the opposition of the Fisherman’s co-operative and the people of Japan and Korea.
At the same time the Japanese government under former Japanese prime minister Abe and now Suga continue their denialism mode. They say that they have overcome the nuke plant meltdowns and still want to have the Olympics in Japan this summer in the midst of the greatest world pandemic in over 100 years.
They also have shown their sexist attacks on women when the former head of the Olympics Yoshiro who was also a former prime minister said women speak too much. He was forced to
resign but their reactionary sexism, denialism and racism continues.
Nuclear clean-up workers including workers from overseas and other workers continue to get contaminated with no proper health and safety education and tens of thousands of bags of radioactive waste continue to remain scattered throughout the prefecture with no place to go.
The criminal negligence of having the Olympics under these circumstances with a full blown pandemic and a three leaking nuclear reactors is a sign of insanity and a danger to not only
Japan but the world.
No Nukes Action calls on all those opposed to nuclear plants and weapons, against the in Tokyo and Fukushima Olympics and those opposed to have this event in the middle of a pandemic to join the action.
It it time to remember the families and children who are still suffering from this man-made
disaster and let them know that people in the United States and around the world stand with them.
Physical distancing and masks for all participants at action
Rally & Speak-out On 10th Anniversary of Fukushima, Against the Japan Olympics In The Middle Of Covid Pandemic
Thursday March 11, 2021 3PM
San Francisco Japanese Consulate
275 Battery St/California
No Nukes Action
Water leaks indicate new damage at Fukushima nuclear plant
February 20, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture is seen in this photo taken on Feb. 14, 2019. (Mainichi)
TOKYO (AP) -- Cooling water levels have fallen in two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since a powerful earthquake hit the area last weekend, indicating possible additional damage, its operator said Friday.
New damage could further complicate the plant's already difficult decommissioning process, which is expected to take decades.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Keisuke Matsuo said the drop in water levels in the Unit 1 and 3 reactors indicates that the existing damage to their primary containment chambers was worsened by Saturday's magnitude 7.3 quake, allowing more water to leak.
The leaked water is believed to have remained inside the reactor buildings and there is no sign of any outside impact, he said.
In 2011, a powerful magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and nuclear fuel to fall to the bottom of their primary containment vessels.
TEPCO will monitor the water and temperatures at the bottom of the containment vessels, Matsuo said.
Since the 2011 disaster, cooling water has been escaping constantly from the damaged primary containment vessels into the basements of the reactor buildings. To make up for the loss, additional cooling water has been pumped into the reactors to cool the melted fuel remaining inside them. The recent decline in the water levels indicates that more water than before is leaking out, TEPCO said.
More than 180 people received mostly minor injuries from Saturday's earthquake, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The quake also triggered landslides, damaged homes and a high-speed train line, and caused widespread power and water supply disruptions.
TEPCO initially reported that there was no abnormality at the plant from Saturday's quake.
Matsuo said the cooling water level fell as much as 70 centimeters (27 inches) in the primary containment chamber of the Unit 1 reactor and about 30 centimeters (11 inches) in Unit 3. TEPCO wasn't able to determine any decline in Unit 2 because indicators have been taken out to prepare for the removal of melted debris, it said.
Increased leakage could require more cooling water to be pumped into the reactors, which would result in more contaminated water that is treated and stored in huge tanks at the plant. TEPCO says its storage capacity of 1.37 million tons will be full next summer. A government panel's recommendation that it be gradually released into the sea has faced fierce opposition from local residents and a decision is still pending.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo High Court on Friday held the government as well as TEPCO accountable for the 2011 nuclear disaster, ordering both to pay about 280 million yen ($2.6 million) in compensation to more than 40 plaintiffs forced to evacuate to Chiba, near Tokyo, for their lost livelihoods and homes.
Friday's decision reverses an earlier ruling by the Chiba district court that excluded the government from responsibility. Judge Yukio Shirai said the government could have foreseen the risk of a massive tsunami and taken measures after a long-term assessment in 2002 of seismic activities.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs welcomed the decision and said it would affect other pending cases.
"The case raises the question of whether we should tolerate a society that prioritizes economic activities over people's lives and health," said Izutaro Mangi, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
Newly found Fukushima plant contamination may delay cleanup
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 27, 2021 at 18:10 JST
This Jan. 31, 2014, image released by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings shows the aerial view of the No. 3 reactor, with its roof blown off and shield plug (circle in the middle) exposed, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. (AP Photo)
A draft investigation report into the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, adopted by Japanese nuclear regulators Wednesday, says it has detected dangerously high levels of radioactive contamination at two of the three reactors, adding to concerns about decommissioning challenges.
The interim report said data collected by investigators showed that the sealing plugs sitting atop the No. 2 and 3 reactor containment vessels were as fatally contaminated as nuclear fuel debris that had melted and fell to the bottom of the reactors following the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake.
The experts said the bottom of the sealed plug, a triple-layered concrete disc-shaped lid 12 meters in diameter sitting atop the primary containment vessel, is coated with high levels of radioactive Cesium 137.
The No. 1 reactor lid was less contaminated, presumably because the plug was slightly knocked out of place and disfigured due to the impact of the hydrogen explosion, the report said.
The experts measured radiation levels at multiple locations inside the three reactor buildings, and examined how radioactive materials moved and safety equipment functioned during the accident. They also said venting attempt at Unit 2 to prevent reactor damage never worked, and that safety measures and equipment designs still need to be examined.
The lid contamination does not affect the environment as the containment vessels are enclosed inside the reactor buildings. The report did not give further details about if or how the lid contamination would affect the decommissioning progress.
Nuclear Regulation Commission Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa called the findings “extremely serious” and said they would make melted fuel removal “more difficult.” He said figuring out how to remove the lids would be a major challenge.
Removing an estimated 900 tons of melted fuel debris from three reactors is a daunting task expected to take decades, and officials have not been able to describe exactly when or how it may end.
The Fukushima plant was to start removing melted fuel debris from Unit 2, the first of three reactors, later this year ahead of the 10th anniversary of the accident. But in December, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government announced a delay until 2022. They said the development of a robotic arm for the debris removal--a joint project with Britain--has been delayed due to the pandemic.
Under the current plan, a remote-controlled robotic arm will be inserted from the side of the reactor to reach the molten fuel mixed with melted parts and concrete floor of the reactor. Eventually the lids also would have to be removed, but their contamination is a major setback.
The team of experts entered areas inside the three reactors that were previously highly contaminated and inaccessible after radiation levels came down significantly. They're seeking data and evidence before they get lost in the cleanup.
Massive radiation from the reactors has caused some 160,000 people to evacuate from around the plant. Tens of thousands are still unable to return home.
With six months to go, the Tokyo Olympics are swimming against a tide of doubt
A man sits on the shoreline near the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
A man sits on the shoreline near the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
Simon Denyer and
Jan. 23, 2021 at 1:59 a.m. PST
TOKYO — When the Summer Games were postponed in March of last year, organizers had a vision: In July 2021, a torch would be carried into this city’s new National Stadium, and its flame would bring the Olympic cauldron to life. The Tokyo Games would be emblematic of mankind’s victory over the coronavirus and a source of renewed hope for the planet.
Six months before those Opening Ceremonies are scheduled to take place, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga maintain that vision will become reality.
But the virus is not so easily beaten, and the past two weeks have obscured such optimism in a fog of doubt. Gripped with its worst wave of infections since the pandemic began, Japan placed Tokyo under a state of emergency Jan. 7.
The sports world also felt the effects of the rising virus numbers. Outbreaks among scores of Japanese sumo wrestlers as well as badminton, rugby and table tennis players have led to mass withdrawals or outright cancellations in the past two weeks. Outside Japan, the Australian Open was thrown into disarray when air passengers coming from qualifying tournaments in Qatar tested positive on arrival.
Even as Tokyo 2020 organizers insisted their determination to hold the event was “unwavering,” a senior Japanese government minister admitted the decision on whether to hold the Games could “go either way.” Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday the virus outbreak had put “real pressure” on Suga to cancel the Games.
Public opinion in Japan has soured, and the resignation of former prime minister Shinzo Abe on health grounds in September robbed the Games of its biggest believer in the government. The suspicion that Japan may be losing its nerve is growing.
But the people closest to the planning for the Games insist a path remains. A year ago, the decision by the Australian and Canadian Olympic committees to withdraw their athletes helped force Abe to agree to a postponement. Today, prospective visitors sound much more confident.
“The Tokyo Games are definitely on,” Australian Olympic Committee chief Matt Carroll said in Sydney on Friday. “The flame will be lit on the 23rd of July.”
Virus surge puts ‘real pressure’ on Japan to cancel Olympics, Australia leader says
The Olympic world was sent spinning Thursday night by a report in the British newspaper the Times, in which an unnamed Japanese government official said the government had privately concluded the Games would have to be canceled. The report prompted swift denials from Japanese and Olympic officials, and IOC President Thomas Bach spoke Friday with all 206 National Olympic Committees, reassuring them that plans for this summer are still on schedule.
“We are working to prepare for all the potential scenarios we may face in July to August this year, and this is a wide range,” Bach said in a video statement released Friday by the IOC. “So we are putting together a huge toolbox of measures, and then we will decide at the appropriate time which of the tools we need to address the situation.”
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizers similarly expressed confidence last spring about delivering an Olympics that summer and faced heavy criticism for being slow in announcing a year-long postponement. Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete, an international advocacy group for Olympic athletes, said that drawn-out process and the lack of details surrounding these postponed Games have fomented distrust and consternation for many athletes over the plans for 2021.
“We all know that every athlete wants to go to the Games, but the question is at what cost?” he said. “And I think that’s where the IOC has dropped the ball. And they’ve dropped the ball since the beginning. I know it’s difficult, but the lack of transparency on what the plans are — surely the IOC has a duty of care to inform athletes and the National Olympic Committees on what are the plans, what are the cutoff dates, what are the precautions being put in place? How can you justify athletes competing and training right now abroad when the rest of society is asked to stay home and locked out in a lot of places?”
Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, speaks during an interview this week. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, speaks during an interview this week. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
Welcoming the world?
There are several key questions: whether it is safe for spectators, athletes and the broader Japanese public; whether the sporting integrity of the Games can be maintained; whether the Japanese public can be brought around; and whether the timeline can be managed.
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said at a public lecture this month that a “very difficult” decision on whether to allow spectators will have to be made in February or March. The door to foreign spectators, though, seems to be closing, not least because the prospect of hundreds of thousands of overseas visitors undoubtedly has undermined public support for the Games in this nation, with its island mentality.
“With athletes, coaches and people around them and the IOC members coming from all over the world, that’s already a huge number,” said Kaori Yamaguchi, executive board member of the Japanese Olympic Committee. “For the volunteers, having spectators from overseas will change their level of concern. Personally, I think it will be difficult to have foreign spectators.”
U.S. Olympic hopefuls, dealing with a wrecked schedule, continue to adjust in an unusual year
The case for some domestic spectators is stronger. On Jan. 4, more than 24,000 physically distanced spectators attended Monday’s season finale of Japan’s professional soccer league at the new National Stadium, where the Opening Ceremonies are set to take place. Even under the state of emergency, Tokyo is allowing 5,000 spectators at sporting events, appropriately spaced out, wearing masks and refraining from cheering and shouting.
Japan isn’t expected to begin vaccinating its population until late February, and medical experts say it won’t be possible to inoculate everyone by July 23. However, it should be possible to bring infection numbers way down by then and have enough vaccine coverage — backed with rapid testing and sensible precautions — to reduce the risks.
Although Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said organizers are not willing to stage the Games behind closed doors, that remains a fallback option: Kyodo News reported Friday the government had begun to consider a spectator-free Games as a way to avoid a cancellation.
Keeping the dream alive: How athletes are dealing with postponed Olympic Games
The bigger questions appear to be how to ensure the safety of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes — and safeguard the integrity of the Games.
Just this month, 65 wrestlers were forced to withdraw from a national sumo tournament in Tokyo after contracting the virus or being in close contact with someone who had, and 51 players were forced to withdraw from the national table tennis championships in Osaka for the same reason.
Japan’s entire 22-member badminton team had to withdraw from the Thailand Open after men’s singles world champion Kento Momota tested positive. The opening of Japan’s Top League rugby matches was put on hold after 67 players and staff were found to have the virus, and a cycling event in Wakayama turned into a covid cluster, with 31 of 113 participants later testing positive.
Former Japanese swimmer Takeshi Matsuda, an Olympic medalist, said it would be a nightmare if an outbreak caused last-minute withdrawals at the Games.
“The Olympics are the top competition for sports, and if the top athletes from around the world can’t compete, for me that’s not a full-scale Olympics,” he said.
A year from Beijing Olympics, coronavirus wreaks havoc with winter sports schedules
Terrence Burns, a former IOC executive and U.S.-based global sports marketing veteran, said everyone involved in the Games realizes “holding an unsafe Games could frankly destroy a lot of the value that the Games stand for and aspire to.”
“I have a hard time believing the IOC would proceed with a Games that would put athletes’ or spectators’ lives and health at risk,” Burns said. “They have traditionally had a very long-term view on the Games.”
Yet Takaya, the spokesman, said Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have been studying all the sporting events that have been taking place around the world during the pandemic, and he promised detailed plans would be issued soon on how infections would be avoided and controlled.
“All the sporting events that have been happening are a big asset for Tokyo 2020,” he said. “We have to look carefully at what’s going wrong, and that’s exactly we are discussing right now.”
The IOC already has asked competitors to minimize their time in the Athletes Village, arriving five days before and leaving 48 hours after their events when possible. The Australian Open model — 14 days of pretournament quarantine — won’t be considered, but Takaya said training sites across the country could be made available for national teams who wanted to arrive early, allowing more time for training and acclimatization — and coronavirus testing.
Paralympians have been another major concern, especially if they have underlying heath conditions that could put them at risk. But those concerns are overblown, insists Craig Spencer, chief brand and communications officer for the International Paralympic Committee.
“This is where the public perception needs correcting,” he said. “Obviously its impact on someone with a disability could be a different impact compared to other people. So those athletes with high support needs, should they catch covid, are going to be most at-risk. But you’ve got to consider, our athlete community is supremely fit. No matter which sport you’re in the Paralympics, you’ve performed years of training. We’re pretty confident in that regard.”
Getting vaccinated won’t be compulsory, but the IOC is encouraging Olympic attendees to do so, and it hopes to work with the World Health Organization to make sure athletes have access to supplies.
With qualifying events and Olympic trials scheduled for the spring, the timeline isn’t long. But it is long enough, former IOC marketing director Michael Payne said.
“The key point is it’s six months away,” he said. “And with the vaccine starting to roll out, the situation in the world in six months’ time certainly will look very different now than it does today.”
Long(er) Road to Tokyo: How U.S. athletes are training during the pandemic
But a considerably closer date looms large in the minds of Tokyo 2020 organizers and the government here. On March 25, the Olympic torch relay is set to start in Fukushima prefecture, and no one wants a false start. Contractors start arriving in April, when plans start to get cemented in place. Last year, the Games were postponed March 23, just three days before the relay was set to begin.
Things may look better in six months’ time, but how much better will they look in two months? Will Japan really be in position to guarantee a safe Olympics 60 days from now?
“I can understand why people are nervous,” Spencer said. “One thing that ourselves, the IOC and Tokyo 2020, need to get better at in the coming months is explaining to people why we’re optimistic we can deliver a safe and secure Games.
“There’s so much that’s been going on behind the scenes. We all believe we’ve got the plans in place that can deliver these Games in a safe and secure way. Twelve months ago, we didn’t have that. We do now because we’ve been working our backsides off the last 12 months on this.”
Julia Mio Inuma contributed to this report.
Japan Olympic organisers to ban singing in silent Tokyo Games
Competitors must take Covid test 72 hours before departure
Told not to use public transport on arrival in Tokyo
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Wed 3 Feb 2021 07.46 ESTFirst published on Wed 3 Feb 2021 05.38 EST
The first version of a playbook of Covid virus safety rules organisers say will ensure the Tokyo Olympic Games can be held from July.
The first version of a playbook of Covid virus safety rules organisers say will ensure the Tokyo Olympic Games can be held from July. Photograph: Du Xiaoyi/AFP/Getty Images
The organisers of the 2020 Olympics are planning a silent Games in Tokyo, with bans on singing and chanting among a list of restrictions officials say will protect athletes, staff and the public from coronavirus.
The IOC’s first “Covid playbook”, published on Wednesday, is aimed at sports federations and technical officials, but similar measures designed to prevent the Games from becoming a superspreader event are expected to apply to athletes – and possibly spectators – when the Olympics open on 23 July.
The playbook says visitors should “support athletes by clapping and not singing or chanting”, while athletes will be subject to testing a minimum of once every four days while they are in Tokyo. All visitors will be required to present proof of a recent negative test upon arrival in Japan, but vaccination will not be a condition of participating in the Games, which were postponed for a year last March as the pandemic began its spread across the globe.
Tokyo Olympics: definitely going ahead unless cancelled again?
Athletes and officials will not be permitted to use public transport without permission, must also wear face masks when appropriate, and practice social distancing. Exceptions will be made for when athletes are eating, sleeping or outside.
Despite speculation the postponed Games could be called off as a result of the pandemic, the IOC’s executive director, Christophe Dubi, said he was confident the guidelines would ensure the safety of everyone involved. “The health and safety of everyone at the Olympic and Paralympic Games are our top priority,” he said. “We each have our part to play. That’s why these playbooks have been created – with the rules that will make each and every one of us a sound, safe and active contributor to the Games.”
Dubi added that Tokyo 2020 “will be remembered as a historic moment for humanity, the Olympic movement and all those contributing to their success”.
Craig Spence, of the International Paralympic Committee, said the world knew much more about the virus – and how to contain it – than it did when the Games were postponed. “The thousands of international sports events that have taken place safely over the last year have given us valuable learning experiences,” he said.
“Combining this new knowledge with existing knowhow has enabled us to develop these playbooks, which will be updated with greater detail ahead of the Games.”
Detailed guidelines for broadcasters, athletes and the media will be released in the coming days.
While a decision on whether to allow fans to attend is not expected for a few months, anyone watching the events will be told to refrain from singing or shouting and to show their support by applauding instead.
A man stands in front of a countdown clock for the Tokyo Games on Wednesday.
A man stands in front of a countdown clock for the Tokyo Games on Wednesday. Photograph: Koji Sasahara/AP
Athletes and officials will be banned from visiting bars, restaurants and tourist spots in Tokyo and will only be permitted to travel on official transport between the venues and their accommodations. The playbook warns them they could be ejected from the Games for serious or repeated violations of the rules.
“We draw to your attention that risks and impacts may not be fully eliminated and that you agree to attend … at your own risk,” the playbook says. “We trust that these measures are proportionate to mitigate the above-mentioned risks and impacts and we fully count on your support to comply with them. Non-respect of the rules … may expose you to consequences that may have an impact on your participation … [and] your access to Games venues.
Japan faces Olympian task with slow start to Covid vaccinations
“Repeated or serious failures to comply with these rules may result in the withdrawal of your accreditation and right to participate.”
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other comparable countries, with fewer than 6,000 deaths recorded. But a recent surge in cases last month forced the government to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and other hard-hit regions that is due to last until early March and to close its borders to non-resident foreigners.
There is growing concern that an influx of 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as large number of sponsors, officials and other Games-related staff will spread the virus. Opinion polls show that a large majority of Japanese people do not want the Olympics to go ahead.
The playbook was released as medical officials in Tokyo warned that doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients would not have the time to volunteer at the Olympics. Satoru Arai, the director of the Tokyo Medical Association, said staff were under too much pressure to even consider signing up for Olympic duty.
Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.
“No matter how I look at it, it’s impossible,” he told Reuters. “I’m hearing doctors who initially signed up to volunteer say there’s no way they can take time off to help when their hospitals are completely overwhelmed.”
Games organisers and the Tokyo metropolitan government have asked the association to secure more than 3,500 medical staff for the event.
Pandemic breaks Olympic spell as public sours on hosting event
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
February 1, 2021 at 13:39 JST
Images of the official mascots of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are on display in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district on Jan. 23. (Takuya Isayama)
Professor Yuji Nakamura was caught completely off-guard by his students’ sea change in attitude toward the Tokyo Olympics.
Just months ago, some of them had enthusiastically volunteered as helpers for the postponed 2020 Summer Games.
But at a mock news conference on Jan. 4, when the Utsunomiya University students were acting as Olympic organizing officials, they were all in agreement: “We have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
It’s not just young people who have soured on the Tokyo Games. Even those who can recall the “magic” of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics say the spell has worn off for this year’s rescheduled event.
Olympic fever has died down so much among the pandemic-weary public that anti-Olympic protesters in Tokyo who were once vilified as unpatriotic are now receiving words of encouragement.
Nakamura, a 59-year-old professor of the School of Regional Design at the university, split the 20 students in his “Policies of sports and leisure” course into five groups. They were assigned to act as Olympic organizing officials and discuss the pros and cons of hosting the quadrennial sporting event amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
After a 30-minute online discussion about politics, economics and other factors related to the Games, all five groups concluded that the Olympics must be canceled.
“It is difficult to hold qualifying sessions, which means the selection process is not fair,” one group said.
“The health care system cannot catch up with the virus,” another group said.
Nakamura had expected at least one group would decide to postpone the Games again or hold the event without spectators.
“I was shocked,” he said.
In autumn, Nakamura asked a group of students about their opinions on the Summer Games.
“I have signed up as a volunteer so I want the Olympics to be held,” a student said.
“I believe the Olympics energize society,” another student assessed.
For Nakamura, the Olympics have always been special. “It’s more than just a game. It has the power to move the world,” he said.
But the novel coronavirus has also changed the world, as well as attitudes on holding the sports extravaganza.
“I have to admit that in the midst of the pandemic, students today may not have special feelings for the Olympics anymore,” Nakamura said.
ANTI-OLYMPIC PROTESTERS FEEL CHANGE
The public’s change of heart is also evident on the streets of the capital.
A 60-year-old man has joined a street demonstration every month to voice opposition to the Tokyo Olympics and hand out fliers. Protesters have argued the Games are huge waste of taxpayers’ money, and the costs will rise further because of the postponement and necessary adjustments.
He said he used to get icy stares from passers-by as if he was an oddity. They could not understand why anyone would object to holding the Olympics, he said.
“Around last summer, when the second wave of the pandemic hit, people on the street started seeing us in a different light,” the man said.
Nowadays, more people are taking fliers and listening to what the protesters have to say about the Olympics.
He said he has been accosted by people who say, “Good luck!” and, “We have more important things to worry about than hosting the Olympics, don’t we?”
PANDEMIC LIFTS MAGIC SPELL
Satoshi Ukai, a 65-year-old professor emeritus of modern French literature and thought at Hitotsubashi University, has expressed opposition to the 2020 Games since the event was awarded to Tokyo in 2013.
Ukai said the Japanese public has embraced the narrative that the 1964 Tokyo Games played a pivotal role in Japan’s postwar rebuilding. That event filled in for the 1940 Tokyo Olympics that were canceled because of World War II.
Since then, the public has shared a social memory that “the Olympics are a totally awesome event,” Ukai said.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has “lifted the spell,” he said.
“The public has realized that obsessing over the Olympics is detrimental to the measures to contain the pandemic,” he said. “It was a magic spell after all. Once the spell is broken, it will become irreversible.”
DEFLATED BASKETBALL DREAM
“The romance is over,” a 49-year-old man who runs a bar in Saitama Prefecture posted on Twitter in November.
Shortly after that tweet, he canceled 12 precious Olympic tickets for men’s basketball that he had won in the lottery. He received a refund of 180,000 yen ($1,730).
He was looking forward to seeing the competition live at Saitama Super Arena, an Olympic venue not far from his neighborhood, with his customers.
The bar owner became hooked on the Olympics when he watched the U.S. basketball “Dream Team” dominate the 1992 Barcelona Games.
The man had been playing the sport since he was a junior high school student. But seeing the team led by NBA stars like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson was something special.
He said he was also moved by Kosei Inoue’s gold-medal performance in judo at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“Watching a sport that I would not normally see is the appeal of the Olympics, and it thrilled me,” the man said.
He said he was looking forward to seeing Rui Hachimura, a forward for the Washington Wizards, return to Japan and play in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
But the bar owner soon had more pressing matters to deal with.
As the pandemic continued, monthly sales of his business fell from a peak of about 900,000 yen to 100,000 to 200,000 yen now.
He needed the 180,000-yen refund to save the bar. He also said he was worried about contracting the virus by attending the basketball games.
“I can’t even foresee my life right now,” he said. “I’m in no mood for having lots of fun at the games.”
Nonetheless, he still hopes the Olympics will be held for the sake of the athletes.
“If it can be held safely, I want to buy a ticket again,” he said.
The Games’ organizer said that of about 4.45 million tickets that had been sold, 810,000, or 18 percent, have been canceled and refunded.
BANKING ON VACCINE
An Asahi Shimbun survey conducted on Jan. 23 and 24 showed that only 11 percent of voters want the Olympics held in summer as scheduled, 19 percentage points down from a December survey.
But government leaders in Japan have flatly denied the possibility of canceling the Games. They are betting the house on a COVID-19 vaccine and plan to start distributing doses as early as the end of February.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said that holding the Olympics would be “proof that humankind has overcome the coronavirus,” repeating the phrase uttered by his predecessor, Shinzo Abe.
Suga, whose approval ratings have plummeted, believes he can win public support for his aggressive remarks concerning the Olympics once the inoculations begin.
“That will change the mood of the people,” Suga said.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has sometimes butted heads with the central government over how to deal with the pandemic, appears to be in step with Suga on the Olympic issue.
After The Times, a British newspaper, reported that Japanese government officials had privately concluded that the Olympics will have to be canceled, citing an anonymous source, Koike immediately rejected the article.
“We should wage a protest” she said on Jan. 22. “There has been no such talk at all that the Games will have to be canceled or postponed.”
The Suga administration views the Olympics and the return of overseas visitors as a now-or-never spark for the economy that has been battered by the pandemic.
Under the administration’s best-case scenario, a successful Olympics will provide a springboard for Suga to hold a snap Lower House election.
That scenario will work for Koike as well, a Tokyo metropolitan government official said.
The capital “may not feel the benefits (of the Games) for a temporary period, but it will boost the flagging economy,” the official said.
PLEASE BE PATIENT
But with the greater Tokyo metropolitan area still fighting to bring the third wave of the virus under control, some officials are voicing opinions that go against the grain of the government’s official stance.
“How many Tokyo residents want the Olympics to happen?” a high-ranking metropolitan government official asked. “It is not surprising that people have urged the government to spend more money on anti-virus measures (than on Olympic preparations).”
In addition, the COVID-19 situation remains much more grave in many other countries around the world.
“Realistically speaking, if the United States and major countries in Europe decide not to (send athletes), it won’t be an Olympics in the true sense of the word,” a person close to Suga said.
A top official of the Japanese organizing committee called for patience.
“We’re biting the bullet right now,” the official said. “Once the effects of the state of emergency kick in, the vaccine inoculation program gets started and the number of new infection cases goes down, things will get better.”
View events for the week of 3/11/2021
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
|Rally-Speak Out Thursday On Tenth Anniversary of Fukushima NUKE Meltdowns|
|Import into your personal calendar|
|Date||Thursday March 11|
|Time||3:00 PM - 4:00 PM|
|Organizer/Author||No Nukes Action|
San Francisco Japanese Consulate
275 Battery St/California St.
Added to the calendar on Friday Feb 19th, 2021 8:30 PM