(Amitava Mukherjee is a senior journalist and commentator specializing in politics and international affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Coates, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president, is a headstrong man. When the whole world is reeling under the Covid-19 virus threat Coates is prepared to play the role of a Nero who played on his fiddle while Rome was burning. Coates has averred that the Olympic game would open even if Japan decides to expand the ongoing state of emergency. Indeed it has been expanded. But that has not deterred Coates to emphasize further that the game would continue even if Japan's local medical community advises against holding the Olympics at all.
But the people of Japan do not agree with John Coates, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president, is a headstrong man. When the whole world is reeling under the Covid-19 virus threat Coates is prepared to play the role of a Nero who played on his fiddle while Rome was burning. Coates has averred that the Olympic game would open even if Japan decidesim. They are worried. A recent survey published in the Japan Times gives out that more than 80 per cent of Japanese citizens are against holding the Olympics at this time. Forty-three per cent of them want total cancellation while forty per cent of the respondents have demanded postponement of the game. Only fourteen per cent want the game to roll on as scheduled which is down from 28 per cent recorded in another survey held in April. Fifty-nine per cent of the people participating in the survey have opined that if the Olympic game is held despite all-round protests then there must not be any spectator in the stadia.
Not that the IOC and the Government of Japan do not understand the gravity of the situation. A sign of it is the decision to block the entry of international spectators into the game arena. For this, the organizers may have to arrange refunds for at least six lakh tickets to the Olympic Games and 30,000 tickets for the Paralympic. Generally, 10 to 20 per cent of tickets for these mega-events are purchased by international spectators and it is expected that tickets have already reached them.
The people of Japan are wise and must be aware of the situation prevailing in neighbouring areas. Thailand is a classic example. Bangkok handled the first wave of corona attack quite efficiently. But all those changed with jamborees of the Thai New Year. Till January 1 this year Thailand had only 7379 cases. This has now risen to nearly one-and-a-half lakh. In Malaysia daily recorded Corona cases hover around 6,000 and the total figure was 5,25,889 last month. In the Philippines, cases have jumped up to more than 15,000 a day with the total figure running somewhere near 12 lakhs. The situation is worse in Indonesia. Last month it had a caseload of nearly 18 lakhs. Jakarta's mortality figure is also very high. It was nearly 50,000 last month.
In Japan, the vaccination drive has been slow. So far only 6 per cent of the population has been vaccinated and the government in Tokyo hopes to vaccinate 30 per cent of the country people by the end of June. No doubt it's a tall task. But the organizers will have to let 90,000 people from outside- the athletes and their delegations. It is expected that most of them will come with vaccination certificates and those remaining unvaccinated will be given the shot at the Olympic venue. Still, there will be plenty of people awaiting the jab.
Will not they be a threat to the people of Japan? Will not they act as catalysts for spreading Covid-19 viruses in a much wider region?