What to Call 2021 Olympics? Just One of Many Challenges for Japan


TOKYO — The unprecedented choice to postpone the Tokyo Olympics till subsequent summer season due to the coronavirus pandemic introduced aid to the athletes and nationwide groups that had pushed for a suspension of the Games at the same time as its organizers appeared to defy the inevitable.

But for Japan, delaying the world’s largest sporting occasion will pose financial, political and logistical challenges no different nation has confronted — together with the place to retailer the Olympic flame for a 12 months, how to manage hundreds of ticket holders who not know what dates they’ve dedicated to, and whether or not the nation can hope to recoup its $10 billion funding.

The Tokyo organizing committee has to steer a employees of three,500 — lots of whom have been seconded from company sponsors and have been scheduled to return to work at these corporations within the fall — to remain on for 12 extra months.

Hotels might want to rebook hundreds of holiday makers. The actual property firm that’s changing the Olympic Village into condominiums now has to push its renovation schedule out one other 12 months and probably redo hundreds of contracts with consumers.

There is even the query of the right way to discuss with the delayed Games. Although each the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, and the chairman of the Tokyo organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, stated that the Olympics would proceed, nevertheless awkwardly, to be generally known as Tokyo 2020, social media lit up with dozens of recommendations like Tokyo 2020: 2.zero or Tokyo 2020 R2, in addition to playfully altered Olympic logos.

As Japan extends its multibillion-dollar Olympic effort by a 12 months, its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, should persuade the nation that he can maintain management of an unwieldy mixture of duties and hurdles, at the same time as he tries to steer the nation away from a world viral outbreak that has up to now remained contained inside Japan however has the potential to blow up at any second.

At least for now, the delay in declaring a postponement, which Mr. Abe relented to on Tuesday after seemingly each different main sporting occasion had been canceled or pushed again, has allowed him time to get better from earlier missteps.

Last month, Japan was accused of bungling its response to the coronavirus outbreak on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which spent two weeks quarantined in Yokohama. And critics raised questions on whether or not Japan had waited too lengthy to impose entry bans on folks touring from China when the epidemic was centered in Wuhan.

“I think that the prime minister would have been infinitely more bruised if the decision happened in the context of where Japan was just a few weeks ago,” stated Mireya Solís, co-director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies on the Brookings Institution in Washington. “There would have been questions about whether those responses would have cost Japan the Olympics or put people at risk.”

Now, Ms. Solís stated, the truth that Mr. Abe was capable of keep away from an outright cancellation of the Games “will be seen as a skillful management.”

If the world can convey the coronavirus to heel within the subsequent 12 months, the postponed Games might function a “grand farewell a few months before Abe’s set to leave office,” stated Tobias Harris, an skilled on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington.

“It’s a big symbolic moment for Japan if the world is actually able to convene,” Mr. Harris stated. “It becomes the ‘we’ve overcome the pandemic Games,’ and Japan gets to kind of be the orchestrator for that.”

Yet with the fast-moving coronavirus, what’s true immediately might simply change tomorrow, and the fortunes of Mr. Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, might swing with it. For now, Japan has managed to restrict outbreaks and has not reported excessive numbers of deaths or overburdened intensive-care items.

Skeptics warn that Japan could also be vastly underreporting an infection charges as a result of it’s not testing folks nearly as a lot as different international locations. They fear that the variety of extreme sicknesses and deaths might rise drastically, significantly amongst Japan’s disproportionately older inhabitants.

“The big unknown is whether his luck will hold out with regard to Covid-19,” stated Gerald L. Curtis, a professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University.

Mr. Abe, Mr. Curtis stated, “has been playing a kind of Russian roulette, betting that the virus won’t suddenly spike and giving the public a false sense of security by not testing large numbers of people. If his luck runs out and the virus spreads, he won’t be prime minister when the Olympics come to Tokyo next year.”

Another problem for Japan’s chief is the economic system, the relative power of which had fueled his longevity in energy however which now could be on the point of a deep recession.

Starting late final 12 months, even earlier than tourism evaporated because the coronavirus unfold, Japan’s economic system had been shrinking due to a stoop in Chinese demand for Japanese exports and decreased client spending after Mr. Abe elevated taxes final fall to deal with Japan’s quickly getting old inhabitants.

The Olympics have been supposed to assist revive the economic system. Now, that increase should wait a 12 months, and it’ll comply with what almost definitely will likely be a disastrous international recession.

It will not be clear who will bear the potential extra prices of prolonged leases on services or continued upkeep of venues. The delayed Games “could be a political burden because the government must make additional expenditures for the preparation of the Olympic Games during an economic crisis,” stated Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science at Hosei University in Tokyo.

“The Olympic Games might be a liability rather than a political opportunity for Prime Minister Abe,” Mr. Yamaguchi stated.

For the general public, which overwhelmingly indicated in opinion polls that the Games shouldn’t be staged this 12 months, the extension might result in fatigue.

Ichiro Masaki, 50, who works at a constructing upkeep firm in Tokyo and purchased tickets for the pentathlon and soccer, stated he wasn’t certain if he might use the tickets subsequent 12 months. “Well, honestly, I’m not as excited as I was when I first got the tickets,” Mr. Masaki stated. “If my work schedule allows, I will probably go to see the Games, but I might just get a refund.”

The postponement got here simply in time for the Tokyo organizers to cancel the torch relay, which was scheduled to begin Thursday in Fukushima, the positioning of a nuclear catastrophe in 2011.

Fukushima had hoped to profit from an Olympic narrative pitching the prefecture’s restoration from the lethal earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown 9 years in the past. Delaying the relay defers these hopes for an additional 12 months, however it could have helped avert one other catastrophe.

With the Olympic flame on show in numerous prefectures final week, hundreds of spectators gathered to see it. Jun Suzuki, an Olympics official in control of selling Fukushima Prefecture, stated that 3,000 folks gathered for 2 hours on Tuesday in entrance of Fukushima’s most important railway station to view the flame in its caldron.

Public well being officers have warned that such crowds might be breeding grounds for an infection, and since late final month Mr. Abe had requested that enormous sports activities and cultural occasions be postponed or canceled.

One younger torch runner who was at first chagrined to listen to that the relay had been suspended had come round by Wednesday.

“I thought I had to accept the postponement as the coronavirus is spreading in the world,” stated the runner, Atsuki Watanabe, 12, whose grandfather was a torch runner for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Atsuki, who lives in Iwade City, in Wakayama Prefecture in western Japan, stated he had purchased a brand new pair of crimson and white sneakers for the run, and had been training for the relay near his home whereas his faculty had been closed to stop the unfold of the virus.

The boy stated he was relieved to listen to that he could be allowed to hold the torch in 2021. “Next year, I would like to run,” he stated, “when I have grown a little.”

Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.