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Time’s up for Tokyo?
Sensemaker audio

Time’s up for Tokyo?

Time’s up for Tokyo?

This week the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games kick off. But with Covid cases on the rise, and the city under its fourth state of emergency, enthusiasm for the Games is beginning to wear thin. So what price are Tokyo’s residents really having to pay for the Games?


Transcript:

Andrew, narrating:

Hi, I’m Andrew – and this is Sensemaker – from tortoisemedia.com

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Today, why the Japanese prime minister’s enthusiasm for the Olympics is wearing thin.

***

Protestors shouting.”

Protestors outside Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

What you’re hearing is the sound of protesters outside one of Tokyo’s government buildings. 

Their signs say “Stop the Paralympics – Save Lives”. 

And they’re there because they’re fed up. 

Over the course of this week, 4,400 athletes from 160 teams are flying into Tokyo from around the world. 

And they’re coming from countries where the Covid Delta variant is surging. 

One coronavirus case has already been found in the Olympic village.  

And as for Tokyo itself… 

“Cases in the Olympics host city are rising faster than ever, fuelled by the more contagious delta variant.”

Al Jazeera English

The city is seeing a record number of daily infections. 80 percent of ICU beds are now full.

This might sound familiar. And that’s because it is: this is all coming just a few weeks after the Olympic games. 

Now, the country’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga’s said that there is “no evidence” the Olympics contributed to this current surge. 

But there are growing fears that things in Tokyo are about to get a lot worse.

And even Yoshihide Suga is beginning to worry too. 

So the question is… what price are Tokyo’s residents paying for the games? 

***

Japan’s team did exceptionally well in the Olympics. They came third in the medal table and won gold in everything from gymnastics… 

“There he goes Hashimoto Daiki with a whopping 15.3 to take the title.”

BBC

to skateboarding…

“And there you have I confirmation that Yuto Horigome the 22-year-old from Tokyo has managed to…take home the first Olympic skateboarding gold medal.”

BBC

And there are similar expectations for the Paralympics too – with Japan’s largest ever team of 464 athletes. 

But there’s little optimism left among the host city’s residents. 

Because of the surge in infections, Yoshihide Suga urged people not to travel during Japan’s recent national holiday. 

And the city is back under a state of emergency… its fourth in the pandemic so far. 

“Japan is extending it’s state of emergency in Tokyo and in several more regions until September 12th…”

Al Jazeera English

Bars and restaurants have to close by 8pm… and they can’t serve alcohol either.

90 percent of Japan’s new covid cases are now from the Delta variant… but local media reports have said hospitals are turning patients away because they can’t cope with the surge.  

And last week, Yoshihide Suga’s disease control and prevention team warned “infections are raging and becoming uncontrollable… people have no choice but to protect their own lives”. 

So you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking the government’s statement is similar to what the protesters are asking for…

But with the Paralympics pressing ahead anyway, is Yoshihide Suga making the right call? 

***

Tokyo residents now have “lockdown fatigue”. 

“Honestly there is no impact if the State of Emergency is similar to the previous one everyone is numb it…and it’s more like, not again…”

Al Jazeera English

And with all the hype of the Games on their doorstep, Tokyo’s residents are increasingly ignoring the restrictions. Defiance is setting in. 

Many residents are now openly flouting the rules. The bars and restaurants that are meant to close by 8pm are, well, staying open. 

What’s clear… Yoshihide Suga is losing support. 

But with only 43 percent of the country’s population fully vaccinated, Yoshihide Suga has warned that cases are “severely burdening the medical system”. 

The International Paralympic Committee is confident they wont have issues with the virus spreading from athletes. 

“Frankly we think with the protections that the organising committee and the government of Japan and the Tokyo metropolitan government have put in place, that it will be one of the safest places on earth and so we’re very excited for what’s ahead.”

Mike Peters, CEO, International Paralympic Committee

They claim the virus protocols that worked so well for the Olympics will have the same effect this time around.

But for Tokyo’s residents, the cost of holding both the Olympics and now the Paralympics may continue for longer than they signed up for nearly a decade ago.  

Today’s episode was written by Phoebe Davis and produced by Imy Harper.