Doubts over the viability of the Olympic Games during a worldwide pandemic continued as news broke that Yoshiro Mori, the Organising Committee’s chief, has resigned ahead of a Tokyo 2020 Executive Board meeting on Friday.
I’ve spoken with the Prime Minister of Japan, he’s working very hard to be in a position to safely open the Games, to have the Games, and I think that has to be based on science, whether or not it is safe for that to occur. Joe Biden, President of the United Stated
The 83-year-old former Prime Minister had said that women talk too much and are driven by a ‘strong sense of rivalry’ during an online meeting of the committee’s Board of Trustees earlier this month,
“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mori was quoted as saying by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
“We have about seven women at the [Tokyo] organising committee, but everyone understands their place.”
Mori later retracted his words, acknowledging it was inappropriate, but when pressed on whether he really thought women talked too much, he replied: “I don’t listen to women that much lately, so I don’t know.”
Naomi Osaka called out the gaff-prone Mori, labelling his comments on women as ‘really ignorant’ on social media.
Her voice was one of many to apply pressure and calling for his resignation, which Mori resisted for several days before, apparently being persuaded to do so by the International Olympic Committee.
No doubt, the attitude towards women in Japan is in many ways cultural, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee deserves some credit for increasing the participation of women at the forthcoming Games, increasing it by nearly 49 percent of all athletes due to being women, up from 45 percent at the Rio Games in 2016.
While a new Tokyo Olympics President is to be announced soon, Tennis Australia’s Chief Executive Craig Tiley has cast renewed doubts over anti-coronavirus measures put in place for the rearranged Olympic and Paralympic Games, claiming they are not as ‘rigorous’ as those adopted for the Australian Open.
The first Grand Slam of the year started late in Melbourne because of the need to ship players in from all over the world and ensure they met strict quarantine measures before the event started earlier this week, on Monday.
“I’ve seen the playbook for the Olympics, and I’ve looked at it carefully,” Tiley told Reuters. “And compared to what we’ve done, we’ve had a far more rigorous programme than is being proposed at the Olympics.”
A total of 1,200 players, officials and media arrived in Australia for the tournament on 17 charter flights from 8 countries, and all had to undergo 14 days of quarantine and, between them, undertake 30,000 coronavirus tests.
Tokyo 2020 will dwarf that in size, however, with more than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries competing in 339 events in 33 sports.
“I love the Olympic Games,” Tiley told Reuters. “I’d like to see it be successful but with the experience we had, I cannot see it working.”
The Olympics is due to take place over 17 days, starting on 23 July and finishing on 8 August, with the Paralympic Games following from 24 August to 5 September.
Tiley urged Tokyo 2020 organisers to extend the length of the Games to allow for longer quarantine periods, with athletes training in their own accommodation, such as on a university campus, before staged competition periods for each event.
“There’s no such thing as no risk,” he said.
“But I cannot see it being done any other way, unless you are willing to accept a much higher risk of spreading the virus.”
Australia has so far had a total of 28,871 COVID-19 cases with 909 deaths, while Japan has been affected much worse with 410,000 cases and 6,722 deaths.
Tiley plans to share his AO experience with the IOC after the event.
“Vaccination is not the silver bullet,” he told Reuters. “I don’t see physical distancing and the wearing of masks and the quarantine going [away] anytime soon.”
Another concern is that Tokyo 2020 costs have spiralled out of control, from $7.3 billion at the time of the bid to $26 billion, according to an audit by the Japanese government in 2019.
The games’ postponement to 2021 has added almost $3 billion more to the price tag, bringing the total to around $30 billion, plus added costs relating to health and safety protocols in the face of the pandemic have yet to be factored in.
There are also worrisome vote-buying allegations that have long swirled around the Japanese bid, with a French prosecutor now investigating the matter.
Whether the Games will proceed or not remains a question despite Japan’s Prime Minister’s insistence that Tokyo 2020 will happen, although many say a final decision will be made in March.
US President Joe Biden has said a decision on whether Tokyo 2020 should take place should be based on science.
“I’ve spoken with the Prime Minister of Japan, he’s working very hard to be in a position to safely open the Games, to have the Games, and I think that has to be based on science, whether or not it is safe for that to occur,” Biden said on Westwood One Sports radio programme during the SuperBowl on Sunday.
“Imagine all those Olympians who work for four years, four years for one shot and all of a sudden that opportunity gets lost.
“They are the people that I feel such pain for – but we have to do it based on the science.
“We are a science-driven administration, I think the rest of the world’s there too.
“I hope we can play, I hope it’s possible, but it remains to be seen.”