Coronavirus News Asia

2021 re-branded 2020 for Tokyo Olympics

As the dark shadow of the novel coronavirus spreads ever further across the globe, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games were, on March 24, postponed to 2021 – though in what looks like a smart move for merchandizers and marketers, the brand will remain “Toyko 2020.”

After an initial period of shock, awe and angst most of Japan seems to be okay with it – but now the country has more pressing concerns.

The Olympic flame proved a great draw for the public. On March 21, nearly 52,000 people crowded JR Sendai Station in Northeastern Japan to see the flame before the relay, thus spreading Olympic fever — and possibly a nastier kind of fever: Covid-19.  

Tokyo lockdown?

Thus far, Japan has been reporting surprisingly low numbers of Covid-19 infections. It has been conducting minimal tests, and has not implemented the kind of lockdowns seen across parts of China, Europe and the United States. Despite school closures and sumo playing to empty stadia, much of the densely populated country has carried on as per normal.

Some observers are unimpressed. In a rather undiplomatic letter to German citizens in Japan posted on the Embassy Of Germany’s web site on March 24, the embassy did not mince words in discussing Japan’s coronavirus handling. “The risk of infection in Japan cannot be assessed seriously. It can be assumed that there are a high number of unreported infections due to the small number of tests carried out.” It also added that tests were only performed, if at all, under stringent conditions. 

Now that the Olympic horizon has receded to an uncertain date in 2021, PR pressures on Tokyo City Hall to reassure a worried world may have lifted.

With Tokyoites cavorating en masse under the cherry blossoms, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has taken a harder line than heretofore. Announcing that the disease could be spreading faster than the Olympic torch relay, she is mulling closing down the entire mega-city.

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