Tokyo Olympics mascots unveiled as coronavirus pandemic fears rise in Japan

·3-min read

Organisers of theTokyo Olympic Games and the Japanese capital’s power brokers unveiled statues of the Olympic mascots on Wednesday to mark the 100-day countdown to the start of the rescheduled event.

The festivities to launch Miraitowa and Someity took place at the headquarters of the city’s council amid growing concern about the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the country and continuing disenchantment over the staging of the competitions.

According to an opinion poll released on Monday for the Japanese news agency Kyodo, 39.2 percent of respondents said the Olympics should be cancelled.

Nearly 33 percent called for a second postponement. Only 24.5 percent thought the games should go ahead.

The results of the survey came a day after tougher Covid-19 measures were imposed in Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa to halt a rise in cases. Under the restrictions, restaurants and businesses in densely populated areas will be required to close by 8pm.

Despite the health crisis, delay, gaffes and change of personnel on the organising committee, the Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said she was determined to make the event a success.

Fight

"The fight against an invisible enemy, the coronavirus, is behind the one-year postponement and it has been a major ordeal for humanity,” said Koike.

“But I would like us to overcome the fight against the coronavirus and make the Games a memorable event.

The Tokyo Games were initially scheduled for last July and August. But they were eventually postponed under the impact of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fast forward a year - and despite vaccination roll-out programmes - more transmissible variants of the disease have triggered further waves around the globe.

On Tuesday, Tokyo reported 510 new infections – 111 more than a week ago – bringing its total to almost 127,000.

Death toll

Nearly 2,000 deaths from the illness in Japan’s nationwide toll of 9,500 have occurred in Tokyo.

“The situation is very serious and we are on the brink of a level that requires another state of emergency to be declared,” Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, told the public broadcaster NHK.

As medical experts warned of the increasing danger, organisers highlighted the difficulties of preparing for the world’s most prestigious sporting event against a backdrop of uncertainty.

"The difficult thing is that the situation is always shifting,” said Games logistics supremo Hidemasa Nakamura.

Uncertainty

“Even in the last few months the coronavirus situation has changed greatly and it's doing so now. It's very hard to continue preparations when we don't know what the situation will be in the future.

"But the government and Tokyo, along with the Olympic bodies have a firm goal to become one team in order to hold a safe tournament."

Later this month Tokyo organisers will publish a second playbook - effectively a list of rules and protocols on how to stop infections during the event.

The first playbook, published in February, outlined when masks had to be worn and the distances that had to be maintained between athletes and journalists.

It also recommended fans clap instead of scream and cheer. Athletes were also told they would have to undergo tests for coronavirus every four days.

“Since there are various stakeholders, it is extremely important to have two-way communication where we are open and accept comments in order to make the playbook again,” added Nakamura.