Tokyo 2020 Should Be Cancelled

Just as an update to this entry written in February, after watching this Democracy Now video, it’s now clear that the Tokyo olympics should be cancelled. With COVID cases peaking in Japan, and so few of the population there having been vaccinated, I think it’s fair to say that holding the mega-event there would be nothing less than stupid.

Yesterday I watched Rising Phoenix, a great 2020 film on Netflix, charting the history of the Paralympic movement. I found it quite rousing I must say, as it really brought into focus the strength of the games in bringing everyone together and showing the world what we as disabled people are capable of. Did you know, for instance, that the ‘para-‘ in ‘paralympics’ is meant to denote that the games are parallel to the olympics rather than having anything to do with the games involving paraplegics or disabled people. The film also speaks highly of London 2012 as the first time where the paralympics were taken just as seriously and greeted with as much enthusiasm as the olympics. I will always feel very privileged indeed to have been here in London that year, and watching Lyn and the Paraorchestra perform at the Paralympic closing ceremony will always be one of the greatest, proudest moments of my life.

Since then I have seen the Olympic Movement as a force for good: a giant celebration, bringing the world’s focus onto one city in the spirit of tolerance and friendship. It is just as much about cooperation as competition; as much about culture as sport. I like too how it can be a force for reform and improvement, as well as how it celebrates each city’s uniqueness in turn. Now, however, things seem to have taken a far darker turn: the IOC is apparently insisting the games in Tokyo go ahead no matter what, even though scientists are warning that this could lead to the formation of a new ‘Olympic Variant’ of the virus. The influx of people to Japan this year would have deadly consequences. Framed like that, any sensible person would say the Games have to be cancelled. For the International Olympic Committee to still be insisting that the games go ahead anyway frames them in a very bad light indeed, as it tells us they want their event to go ahead no matter how many people it puts in danger and regardless of how much local opposition there is. According to the Democracy Now video, the IOC have the power to override a local government, so even if the Japanese government asks for the games to be suspended or canceled, as seems increasingly likely given the growing opposition, they could be overruled.

If the IOC does so, it would be an act of unforgivable callousness and arrogance. London 2012 lead me to think that the Olympics were a great big glorious party where everyone came together, and where disabled people were cheered and celebrated alongside everyone else. With the IOC acting as it is, as if it has a right to impose a dangerous event onto a city which does not want it, merely to avoid risking it’s billion-dollar profits, that romantic view now seems very misplaced indeed.

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