Japan reckons with ‘gamble’ of pandemic Olympics

Tokyo awoke to a huge bill and soaring Covid-19 cases yesterday, after pulling off a mid-pandemic Olympics that at times looked impossible and had a mixed reception till the end.

Olympic officials have been predictably bullish, saying the Games, which ended on Sunday, offered hope and uplifting moments, and went off without any major coronavirus outbreaks.

"These Olympic Games have been a powerful demonstration of the unifying power of sport," International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach said at his closing press conference.

But it will take longer for Japan to reckon with a Games that was highly controversial and unfolded as virus cases exploded in Tokyo and elsewhere.

Organisers reported 28 new Games-related Covid-19 cases yesterday, bringing the total since July 1 to 458 cases. Overall, Tokyo reported 2,884 new cases and three deaths yesterday, the highest number for a Monday.

The Asahi Shimbun daily, which had called for the Games' cancellation despite being a sponsor, said the nearly US$15 billion (S$20.3b) event was a "gamble" with people's lives.

"This gamble went ahead, making the situation worse," it said yesterday.

A poll conducted by the paper over the last two days of the Games found 56 per cent of Japanese supported holding the event, with 32 per cent opposed.

Just 32 per cent said they felt the Games were "safe and secure", with 54 per cent unconvinced. - AFP