2020 Tokyo Olympics: The opening ceremony will officially kick off the Games today at 7am ET, or 8pm local time in Tokyo. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: 2020 Tokyo Olympics
On September 2, 1945, Japan formally surrendered to the Allies aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, officially bringing an end to World War II. Between 1945 and 1952, nearly 1 million allied soldiers led by General Douglas A. MacArthur occupied the Japanese state, enacting widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms. It was the only time in Japanese history that the country was occupied by a foreign power. Just over a decade later, Japan hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, the first of its kind in Asia. The 1964 Games were also the first Olympics broadcast internationally—meaning there was no need for tapes to be flown overseas, as they did four years earlier for the 1960 Olympics. Finally, these were the first Olympic Games to feature color telecasts for a few sports. In the domestic market, Japan leveraged Toshiba’s new color transmission system for popular sports including sumo wrestling and judo matches. Needless to say, the Games were a success — a true comeback story — and something Japan hoped to emulate for the 2020 Summer Olympics after years of stagnation, shrinking geopolitical power due to a rising China, and anemic economic growth due to multiple factors including an aging population. However, as the world knows, the Games were postponed due to the pandemic and now organizers and athletes must deal with a host of new issues. These include COVID clusters, no fans, and sponsors pulling major advertising dollars. The opening ceremony will officially kick off the Games today at 7am ET, or 8pm local time in Tokyo. Here’s what both sides are focusing on as the Olympics begin:
On The Right
Right-leaning outlets and commentators think Americans should prepare themselves for a “woke” Olympics full of protesting and activism. A few also discuss the geopolitical significance of the event.
“Olympic Games in for a rude awokening, focus on wrong kind of ‘race’” Stephen L. Miller, New York Post: “The Olympic Games in Tokyo are doomed. Before the opening ceremony, before even the torch is lit, it’s not going to be OK. The Games, I’m afraid, just aren’t woke enough. … For the international left, sport no longer matters unless it can be used to win on Twitter and advance the War for Progress. … During the US Olympic track and field trials, Gwen Berry refused to face the flag on the podium and stood with a disinterested mope … Another controversy arose when American sprinter and Olympic gold-medal favorite Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana use … Another episode saw opinion columnists work themselves into a lather of indignation about swim caps … Once again, an event that is meant to bring peoples together in the name of sport must become a woke circus on a world stage where bad-faith actors can take advantage. The anthem will become another kneeling-type BLM controversy. The flag is to be treated as a racist symbol — perhaps as part of a political stunt from a Nike-sponsored athlete with a new range of sportswear coming out soon. These competitors should enjoy the spectacle they create. At this rate, they will be the only ones watching.”
“How to Save the Olympics” Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal: In May, “… citing COVID-19 cases in Japan, [the State Department] urged Americans to avoid travel to [Japan]. This won’t have much practical effect, but it sends the wrong message [as the country] begins to welcome tens of thousands of athletes and officials to the country ahead of the Olympics. … If Mr. Biden is serious [about helping Japan], dropping the travel advisory would be a good start … Helping Tokyo is worth doing for its own sake. But it’s also worth remembering that China hosts the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year. Authoritarian states use the Games to showcase their political model, and the failure of the Tokyo Olympics would be a propaganda coup for Beijing. Last year’s postponement was unfortunate but inevitable when the world was still learning about COVID-19 and vaccines were months away. Holding the Olympics now would send an important message about the world moving again after more than a year of lockdowns.” Related on the right: “The US should consider the possibility of an Olympic boycott to protest Chinese human rights violations” Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“A Gold Medal Question: Should Women’s Sports Even Exist?” Charles Lipson, RealClearPolitics: “The Tokyo Olympics prompted the latest furor over transgender participation in women’s sports.” Transgender athletes’ “… participation raises questions far beyond this Olympics or that particular sport. … When the winner takes the victory stand, biological women can’t help but wonder if they were treated fairly. … Biological males and females differ systematically in size, strength, speed, height, lung capacity, and agility. Acknowledging those differences is separate from respecting how any individual self-identifies. The best way to resolve this issue is to step back and ask yourself: Is there any compelling reason to hold separate competition for men and women in this particular sport? The answer might be different for golf, shot put, target shooting, or dressage. If the answer is ‘Yes, there are strong reasons in this particular sport,’ then that same rationale answers the question, ‘Should transgender women compete against other women in this sport?’ Put simply, if there are good reasons for holding separate competitions at all, then transgender women should not compete against other women.”
On The Left
Left-leaning commentators and outlets focus most of their attention on potential health concerns related to COVID-19. There’s a sense that these pundits think the Games will turn into a superspreader event. They note this and remark how the IOC doesn’t care, prioritizing profits over public health.
“Banning crowds at the Olympics is a smart pandemic move” Jay Patel, CNN: “The Olympic Games are grounded in a 125-year history of international unity. Every four years, they serve as a reminder of global togetherness and oneness. But since the start of the pandemic, togetherness and oneness have been public health threats. … But was it necessary for the IOC to ban spectators in order to hold the Games safely? I believe so, after considering three important public health factors … First, the Delta variant is beginning to outcompete existing variants in Japan … By banning spectators, we substantially reduce the risk that they might bring the virus back to their home country and perpetuate the spread of disease. Second, a well-functioning test-trace-isolate system is the cornerstone of a robust pandemic response. Unfortunately, Japan has a limited testing capacity … Third, even with adequate protective measures in the venue, unregulated spaces in the vicinity would pose great challenges for keeping spectators COVID-free. Allowing visitors to congregate in a country — like Japan — that has fallen behind on vaccinations and for which a large-scale outbreak would be disastrous would be unnecessarily reckless. For now, our connectedness and unity will remain in spirit as we watch our favorite athletes compete on screen.”
“Holding the Tokyo Olympics amid the COVID pandemic threat is about corporate revenue, not the athletes” Mike Wise, Washington Post: “One of the most brazen, hubris-over-humanity cash grabs in modern sports history is preparing to open in a country where only about 16 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, where 83 percent of citizens say they want the Games canceled or again rescheduled, and where even the emperor has expressed concerns about the Games spreading the coronavirus. The International Olympic Committee gets the gold for greed, NBC Universal earns silver, and Japanese Olympic organizers win bronze. Their prioritization of financial windfall over a public health crisis will be an enduring storyline of these pandemic-scarred Games. … It’s sadly ironic the last Games in Tokyo held such political and global significance. In 1964, Japan was opening up to the world again after its World War II defeat. Contrast that with the upcoming Games, which are to be held without spectators in a nod to the continued COVID threat. … The proper thing would have been to move everything back an additional year and have one two-year Olympic cycle so that Tokyo 2020 became Tokyo 2022, leaving Paris 2024 and LA28 intact. But the IOC, network heads, and Japanese officials are focused on income … humanity never stood a chance.”
“Tokyo’s Olympics have turned nightmarish. LA, are you watching?” Jules Boykoff, Los Angeles Times: “The Tokyo debacle has exposed an International Olympic Committee that disrespects the will of locals, brushes off inconvenient concerns of experts, and prioritizes its profits over all else. The Olympics kneecap democracy, and the Games are extraordinarily vulnerable to catastrophe. … Amid the recent public clamoring to further postpone or just plain cancel the Games, the IOC’s tyranny over its hosts in Tokyo has been abundantly evident. … As for the return on investment Tokyo hoped to see as host to athletes, spectators, and marketers from around the world — it’s mostly gone with the pandemic. … Let the 2020 Games be a warning for LA. In Japan, the gold will go to the five-ring powerbrokers. Tokyo is the also ran.”
Flag This: 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Flag Polls: According to an Ipsos Global Advisor poll, “The American public is split on whether the Summer Olympics in Tokyo should go ahead, with 52% agreeing that it should.” Moreover, “Only half of Americans (48%) are interested in the Olympics this year.” The same poll showed that “78 percent of respondents in Japan believe the Olympics should not go ahead.”
Flag This: For all of the concerns on both the right and left, there seems to be a middle ground. “Despite muted interest, Americans believe the Olympics have a positive impact on society, saying that the event brings their country together (66%) and inspires the next generation to participate in sport (80%). Gymnastics tops the list of sports Americans are most interested in following this year, followed by aquatics (swimming, diving, etc.) and track and field.” As the games begin, we would like to wish Team USA the best of luck. Make us proud!
Flag Poll: 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Do you think the Tokyo Olympics should have been canceled or postponed again? Comment below to share your thoughts.