Tokyo Olympics Public Support Always Elusive

(ATR) Lagging public support has been a chronic weakness of Olympic plans in Tokyo.

(ATR) Tokyo may be considered the best prepared of any city to host the Olympics, but public opinion remains a stubborn obstacle as the postponed Games loom six months from now.

The latest polling of Japanese citizens shows 80 percent believe the Olympics should not be held or postponed to another year.

The two polls were conducted by news agency Kyodo and Tokyo Broadcasting System, both with similar results. The TBS survey found only 13 percent of respondents were in favor of moving ahead with the Olympics and Paralympics beginning July 23. Those opposed numbered 81 percent, 18 points higher than a December survey.

Results of the Kyodo poll show just over 80 percent said cancel or postpone the Games. That number has grown from 63 percent in December.

The first ever Olympic Games postponement came in late March 2020, just four months before they were originally scheduled to start. A consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympic postponement has come with mighty extra costs for the additional year and the measures needed to combat the Covid-19. The bill for staging the Games is reported to have reached $25 billion,

Tokyo as well as other large cities in Japan are now under a state of emergency to ward off a surge in coronavirus cases.

While these circumstances are contributing to the demise of public opinion for the Tokyo Olympics, bringing the event back to Tokyo has always been a tough sell to the Japanese public.

Eight years ago when Tokyo was still bidding to host 2020, an IOC survey showed just 47 percent support for the Olympics.

Yoshiro Mori, who helped lead the bid and is now chairman of the organizing committee, remarkedat that time that public support needed to grow for the bid to be successful.

"Of course we are very aware we won’t do a good job without the nation’s support - that is why we are putting the effort in. We have to do these preparations very early so the people will catch up," he said.

At the time of the IOC vote a year later in 2013, Japan still lagged the field of competitors for 2020 with about 60 percent support. Istanbul and Madrid, the two other finalists outpaced Tokyo in public support.

Tokyo also bid for the 2016 Olympics a few years earlier. In 2007, two years ahead of the IOC vote, public support in Japan for a 2016 Tokyo Games started in the 40 percent range.

As he declared the state of emergency last week, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that he was certain the Olympics and Paralympics will take place. The IOC has indicated that a second postponement in Tokyo is not possible.

Compared to many other nations, Japan’s experience with the coronavirus has not been as deadly. So far 3,800 deaths have been linked to the virus in a nation with a population of 126 million.

While the IOC and Tokyo organizers remain intent on staging the Olympics, exactly how the Games will proceed is still taking shape.

Decisions are pending on whether spectators will be permitted. With eight million tickets available, there are significant questions to answer involving limits on venue capacity and whether foreign spectators should be admitted.

Meanwhile, complex protocols are being put in place to handle the 15,000+ athletes and officials who are supposed to be in Tokyo with many of the details to be determined. These range from arrivals in Japan, to pre-Games training, life in the Olympic Village and safety at venues.

Reported by Ed Hula.