— Published 11 January 2021

The Japanese no longer want the Tokyo Games in 2021

The effect has almost become mechanical. Normal. Less than 200 days before the Tokyo Games (D-193 this Monday, January 11), the mistrust of the Japanese population towards the Olympic event is increasing at the same rate as the curve of the number of positive cases for COVID-19.

Sunday, January 10th, the Japanese capital recorded 1 494 new cases of patients infected with the virus. For the sixth day in a row, the numbers are above the 1 000 mark. For the archipelago as a whole, the number of cases exceeded the 7 000 new patients mark, the day before.

During the same weekend, the first since the decision of the Japanese government to declare a state of emergency in the metropolitan area of ​​Tokyo, a telephone poll carried out for the agency Kyodo News shows a record rate of distrust of the population in regard to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

For more than one in three inhabitants (35.3%), the Tokyo Games should be canceled. The same poll found that 44.8% of those polled wanted the event to be postponed again.

The maths is easy. With less than 200 days to go, and the budget for the Tokyo Games now exceeding $15 billion, more than 80% of Japanese admit to wanting the event not to take place in 2021.

In the same opinion poll, Kyodo News polled the Japanese on their perceptions of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, his government and their handling of the health crisis. The answers are revealed without the slightest ambiguity.

The confidence with regards to power has dropped 9 points from the previous poll, carried out in December. It is now only 41.3%. The mistrust rate climbed to 42.8%, just four months after the start of the Suga government.

The survey revealed that 68.3% of those polled said they were dissatisfied with the measures to fight the virus put in place by the government. 79.2% of the authorities are accused of having waited too long before declaring a state of emergency in Tokyo and the neighbouring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama. Almost one in two respondents (46.6%) believe that the announced deadline for this state of emergency – an initial period of one month – is “too short”.

In the current health context, the results of the opinion poll published by Kyodo News do not come as a surprise. They are logical. Faced with a new wave of the pandemic with more spectacular effects than the previous ones, the Japanese look forward with free-falling enthusiasm to the prospect of seeing the country welcome the entire earth in less than 200 days. The contrary would have seemed doubtful.

However, the Japanese authorities cannot ignore the public’s mistrust of the Tokyo Games. Yoshihide Suga keeps repeating that every effort will be made to ensure that an event is organised safely, his message never gets, however. Ultimately, his insistence on presenting the Games as “the light at the end of the tunnel” could even become a political risk for himself and for his government.

In Lausanne, as in Tokyo, it is not yet time for big decisions. They are announced for the spring. The case curve may still be reversed. And, with it, distrust of the Games. But in Switzerland, as in Japan, policymakers will need a lot more than just a few fancy formulas to spark excitement.