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Vox populi: Forging ahead with Olympics shows priorities are all wrong

  • April 24, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 12:00 p.m.
  • English Press

“The Longest Day,” a 1962 American war film, was shown in Japan under the somewhat hyperbolic title of “Shijo Saidai no Sakusen” (The greatest military campaign in history).

 

The modification was probably made in the belief that it would draw greater interest.

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged over this past year or so, the government, along with the governor of Tokyo, the Japan Medical Association and others, produced a bumper crop of sensational phrases reminiscent of the titles of epic movies of the past.

 

Starting with “kansen bakuhatsu no jyudai kyokumen” (explosive new infections bring a critical juncture), more recent cliches include “koremadede saidai no kiki” (the gravest crisis to date), “gaman no san-renkyu” (three-day weekend of perseverance) and “shobu no san-shukan” (the game-deciding three weeks).

 

The underlying message has been that until everybody gets vaccinated, we must persevere and keep fighting to help prevent the collapse of the nation’s overstretched health care system.

 

Unfortunately, this “campaign” has proven to be a total disaster.

 

According to a website showing vaccination situations around the world, only about 1 percent of the Japanese population has been vaccinated to date, placing Japan behind all OECD nations in vaccine distribution and administration.

 

I knew we were behind, but never thought we were at the bottom of the pile. 

 

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must be feeling ashamed of his failure.

 

When he decided to postpone the Tokyo Olympics by one year rather than two years, he declared: “We can develop vaccines. Japanese technology hasn’t faltered.”

This was revealed to an Asahi Shimbun reporter by Yoshiro Mori, the former Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizing committee president.

 

Abe’s groundless “can do” attitude did not survive the harsh reality, and even now it remains unknown when Japan can receive its supply of vaccines ordered from overseas.

 

But Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is apparently blessed with a mind of steel.

 

Even with mass vaccination plans still up in the air, Suga believes in holding the Olympics, and insists that the issuance of a third state of emergency is going to have no effect on the Games’ schedule.

 

Perhaps the only effect Suga’s attitude is having is on his pandemic response policy.

 

The duration of the state of emergency will be shorter than anticipated, and I have no doubt this has everything to do with the Olympics.

 

When the government is disingenuous in its policies, the public is not inclined to meekly do what it is asked to do.

 

So long as the Olympics remain the “yoke,” the words of politicians cannot be trusted.

 

–The Asahi Shimbun, April 24

 

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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