— Published 7 June 2021

With less than 50 days to go before the Games, the tide is turning in Japan

Tokyo olympic torch relay

A new barrier has been crossed for the organisers of the Tokyo Games. It is only symbolic, but not trivial. At the end of last week, the countdown clock fell below the 50-day mark before the opening ceremony. There are now only 46 days to go before Monday, June 7th.

At this stage of the event’s preparation, the question about whether the Games should be cancelled or not is still being debated around the world. And this is wrong. The Games will take place. The Japanese will go through with it. But, until the end, they will have to deny rumours and repeat their determination to welcome the world in complete safety.

Proof that things are changing: the latest revelation from a foreign media does not mention the scenario of a cancellation. It refers to a postponement. According to the Financial Times, Japanese sponsors of the Tokyo Games have asked the organising committee to postpone the Olympic event to September or October.

According to the sources quoted by the British daily, a postponement of two or three months would make it possible to secure the presence of a greater number of spectators on the sites. And, by extension, to reinforce the marketing impact of the event for its dozens of national partners.

As a reminder, the organising committee has 47 Japanese companies more or less involved in the national marketing programme. Their cumulative contribution exceeds 3 billion dollars in revenue for the organising committee. A record.

Japanese organisers denied this. They assured us on Saturday, June 5th, that they had never received such a request from their private partners. They repeated that the Tokyo Games would indeed take place from July 23rd to August 8th, 2021. Any other scenario is excluded. Let’s face it.

According to the Financial Times, the Japanese Olympic Committee informed its partners as early as April that the decision to allow spectators at the Tokyo Games would be taken at the last moment. June 24th is said to be the preferred date, less than a month before the opening ceremony. Japanese organisers did not deny this. But they have never hidden the fact that they were planning to wait until the end of the state of emergency, which the federal government has extended until June 20th, before making a final decision about the issue.

Deny. Explain. Reassure. With less than 50 days to go before the opening ceremony, Seiko Hashimoto has become an expert in the art of dispelling false rumours, repeating her conviction that the Games will be held and renewing her confidence in the safe organisation of the event.

The president of the organising committee is doing this more and more frequently, several times a week now, without ever losing her composure.

“We have started to welcome the athletes, coaches and officials since June 1st” she told the media last weekend. “And we have already started to provide them with vaccines in their training centres. Our mission today is to make everyone, the tens of thousands of people who are coming for the Games, understand everything we are doing and putting in place to make the Games safe. People need to understand that everything is being done to ensure that the Games can take place in the best possible conditions.”

For Seiko Hashimoto, the arrival of the first foreign delegation, the Australian women’s softball team, in Japan early last week should help reassure people about health safety. “There have been no problems so far, things are going well,” explained the president of the organising committee. “Athletes are careful and everyone is playing the game. I think this is a good example for the teams that will arrive later.”

The latest opinion poll about the Tokyo Games, published on Monday, June 7th, by the Yomiuri shimbun, shows that 50% of respondents are in favour of holding the Games in Tokyo. In the opposite camp, only 48% said they were against the organisation of the Games. The previous survey showed a 59% distrust rate. The tide is turning. It’s about time.