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  • Writer's picture Japan Culture Guide

Tokyo 2020 Olympics retrospective

The Tokyo Olympics have come to an end. It was an unfortunate tournament that had been postponed for one year due to coronavirus, and public opinion in Japan was divided over whether we would hold it. But I feel many viewers were impressed by the attitude of athletes working on the competition at their best. Here, I would like to look back on this sports festival from the standpoint of a private tour guide.

Eight years ago, when Tokyo officially decided to host the Olympics, there was undoubtedly a national strategy to make most of this world's largest event to convey the charm of Japan and Tokyo to the world and attract tourists from all over the world. At that time, Japan's inbound tourism was starting to grow, and it had become a light of hope for Japan's economy, with many other industries being sluggish. The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan was a great success. Everyone felt no doubt that Japanese tourism would flourish at the Olympics the following year until coronavirus outbroke in early 2020.

The plague that began in Wuhan around the end of 2019 and early 2020 came to Japan unexpectedly early in the form of an infectious explosion onboard the cruise Diamond Princess. Yet, the government's response to chanting "corona containment" was terrible. Eventually, the infection spread in Japan and worldwide, and a significant debate on whether to host the Olympics arose among us. Understandably, it is impossible to decide to cancel such a huge event so quickly, and the government continued to escape from proper explanation to Japanese citizens. In addition, the government's measures to the disease were slow and a lack of tension. The development of PCR inspections and quarantine systems was far inferior to other countries, which was strongly criticized by the public. The government decided not to declare a clear policy but finally announced a one-year postponement of the Olympics. With outbreaks of infection worldwide, making most countries close their borders, it could not have hosted a huge international event like the Olympics.

But the problem was not over. The decision to postpone the event by one year should have given us time to take various measures for the following year's games, but no strategy for realizing the event was shown, a no concrete plan. The only measurement to control domestic infection was repeated restrictions on restaurants by declaring a state of emergency. Because we could not develop vaccines in Japan, we were forced to rely on other countries to secure vaccines. The medical approval of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the start of vaccinations were significantly delayed compared to other countries. There was no inoculation strategy, so the vaccination rate in Tokyo at the beginning of the Olympics was just about 20-30%. Earlier this year, the government announced that it gave up accepting spectators from overseas. As a result of this decision, the tourism strategy initially drawn up became a complete failure. The idea that people from all over the world would visit Tokyo and various parts of Japan, interact with local people in multiple ways, communicate their appeal on SNS, as a result, dozens or hundreds of times more people would visit Japan with interest in Tokyo and Japan, has become an empty dream. The last hope was to convey Japan's charm fully at the opening ceremony. Still, the original plan was allegedly forced to change due to the intervention of politicians, resulting in a very inconsistent scenario that did not feel meaningful concept.

During the Olympic games, I had my schedule open without undertaking volunteering jobs, thinking I would be busy with my guiding jobs. But eventually, I had an hour of tourist information work for three days only for the staff of the famous sports shoe brand who had finished the two-week quarantine period just before the end of the tournament. It was for the first time in one and a half years as a guide for me. I rarely see posts on social media that convey the charm of Tokyo and Japan that lead to the future. I expected that there would be more inquiries from customers considering visiting Japan after the Olympics, but I can't feel that at all. With the spread of new variants worldwide, it's not the right time to consider traveling. Though the politicians boast that the Tokyo Olympics were successful, it is nothing but "the events were completed without serious accidents." I wish that people all over the world would remember Tokyo as a city holding the Olympics in the summer of 2021 and that they will plan a visit to Tokyo and Japan in 2022, spring or later.



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