— Published 8 July 2021

Closed-door meetings and states of emergency, new Olympic disciplines


Decisive day in Tokyo. One more. Like the last ones, it looks dark and not very cheerful. According to several reliable sources, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, should decide this Thursday, July 8th, to declare a state of emergency in the Japanese capital. Once again. It should last until August 22nd, two weeks after the end of the Tokyo Games.

The state of emergency, which is unavoidable because of the new outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, will come into effect on Monday, July 12th. The decision is expected in the early evening (Japanese time). It will come at the end of a meeting of the expert group formed by the government to try to contain the effects of the sanitary crisis.

Unless there is an unlikely turnaround, the Prime Minister will declare a new state of emergency in Tokyo, the fourth since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. He should also announce the extension of the state of emergency on the island of Okinawa, the only prefecture in the country where it has never been lifted.

A quasi-state of emergency, less restrictive but still imposing restrictions on commercial activities and restaurants, will be extended until August 22nd in Osaka and three other prefectures near Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa.

As many as 920 new coronavirus cases were recorded on Wednesday, July 7th, in Tokyo alone. This is the highest number since mid-May. For the 18th consecutive day, COVID-19 cases are increasing compared to the same day a week earlier. Far from showing signs of weakness, the pandemic seems on the contrary to be gaining strength in the Japanese capital, two weeks and a few hours before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games.

Whether this is a mere coincidence or not, the government’s decision to declare a new state of emergency will intervene the same day as the Games’ organisers meeting with the IOC, the IPC, the national and local authorities. There is only one question on the agenda: the presence of spectators on Olympic sites.

At this stage of the preparation, this meeting is not only decisive, it is final. At D – 16, the Japanese cannot allow themselves to procrastinate any more. They have to decide.

Unless a miracle happens, the closed-door option will be preferred. According to several sources quoted by the Japanese media, the plan to fill the venues up to 50% of their capacity, with a limit of 10,000 spectators, is likely to fall apart. It is no longer on the agenda and will not become so again.

The Kyodo News agency suggests that the Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, has aligned himself with his advisor on sanitary issues, Shigeru Omi. The scientist has been repeating for several weeks that holding the Olympic Games, combined with summer vacations and the outbreak of the Delta variant, could trigger a new outbreak of infections.

On Tokyo’s sites, closed-door events should be announced this Thursday, July 8th. It could also be decided for the competitions organized in the neighboring prefectures, especially in Chiba, where surfing events are planned, surfing being one of the five additional sports added to the Tokyo Games.

Proving the imminence of the decision to organize the Games in front of stadiums and empty rooms, the recent declaration of Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organizing committee. The Japanese leader confided to the media, this week, that her teams were “prepared” to hold closed door events. The die is cast.