The debut of Karate in the Budokan! The 4X100 men’s relay finals at the new National Stadium! Men’s and Women’s gold medal round at Saitama Super Arena! I bought those tickets!
Alas and alack, my tickets to those events and many more, disappeared like sand castles in the rain.
On March 9, the Japanese government decided to exclude overseas spectators from attending the Games, but still holding out hope that the infection rates would drop low enough to allow for spectators already in Japan.
Those hopes were dashed on Thursday, July 8. The organizers of Tokyo2020 announced that spectators will not be allowed at Olympic events in Tokyo, after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a fourth State of Emergency (SOE) from Jul 12 to August 22.
With the number of daily infections trending upwards, Suga said that “we must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak.”
There will continue to be debate over the COVID impact of tens of thousands of athletes, support staff and administrators visiting from overseas for the Olympics, to be held from July 23 to August 8. But the Games will go on in empty stadiums and arenas.
Not what we imagined during the euphoria of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Twelve stadiums across Japan, from Sapporo to Shizuoka, from Osaka to Oita, were packed with enthusiastic fans from Japan and over 240,000 overseas visitors, who spent multiple days and weeks enjoying the 6-week party. Television ratings for the Japan-Scotland match that sent the Brave Blossoms into the Top 8 was an incredible 53.7%. And the news showed video of hundreds of screaming fans in public viewing sites across the country every day.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will not be the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
But there is a new hope.
The State of Emergency ends on Sunday, August 22. The opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is Tuesday, August 24.
No announcements have been made regarding spectators for the Paralympics. Before the pandemic began, demand for tickets to the 2020 Paralympics were unprecedented, with numbers far exceeding those of the successful 2012 London Paralympics.
As of today, about 29% of people in Japan have had at least one vaccination dose. That’s 57 million shots. If Japan continues an average of a million per day for another month, the numbers of fully vaccinated will shoot up from its current 19% of the population now.
The growing ratio of the vaccinated, combined with the state of emergency discouraging opportunities for super-spreader events, it’s possible the infection rates drop enough to ease the collective anxiety of Japanese society. it’s possible the mood in August will be different from July. It’s possible, that at the end of the current state of emergency, citizens, corporations and government alike will look for opportunities to take steps toward normalcy.
Who knows? The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics may be kicking off at just the right time. The Paralympics may be the opportunity that fans, both domestic and international, are allowed into the stadiums and arenas. Full capacity at venues may be a stretch, but seeing fans in the new National Stadium will be a welcome sight.
And I have tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Paralympics.
I have hope.