New wave of COVID-19 as Olympics continue in Tokyo

August 4, 2021

By Tyler Gibson, Marketing Intern

The Olympic games have always been a testament to the strength, skill, and resilience of humans and their passion for greatness.  Regardless of politics or location, the games signify union and perseverance—in the wake of a global pandemic, the sentiment is more important than ever, especially considering that the already postponed games have an increasing aura of uncertainty. 

The World watched with anticipation as July 23rd, the first scheduled day of the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, drew near. Organizers, athletes, and spectators of the event have had to wait an extra twelve months to prepare for the games, but concerns surrounding the pandemic and Japan’s safety are still very real.  

Japan recently recovered from the peak of a wave of high infection rates—on May 13th alone, 6,367 new cases were recorded amidst the Japanese population, but by mid-June, new cases were reported to have dropped to slightly more than a fourth of that. Yet amidst the relief are concerns that by hosting the summer Olympics, the country is threatened with another surge of cases, especially as the vaccination rate remains relatively low. These concerns have come to realization as the nation has seen a six-month high in its’ number of positive cases.

Despite protests from the Japanese people, officials remained hesitant to forego or postpone the event any longer—restrictions due to the pandemic were even lifted shortly on June 17th. It prevented any international from travel, already forcing many potential spectators to enjoy the games from home. A limit of 10,000 local fans were to be allowed to witness the event in person.  

However, on July 18, the limit was overruled in favor of an entire ban on spectators as Japan declared a state of emergency. An increasing wave of the new delta variant of COVID-19 has pressured officials to act in anticipation of such a large event amidst a largely unvaccinated population (about 20% of the population remained vaccinated the week leading up to the games). Unfortunately, such a demographic seems to be where the new variant of COVID-19 thrives.

Even world-class athletes, visiting under strict guidelines to prevent a worst-case scenario, have not been immune to statistics. Several have already tested positive to the concern of, well, everyone. Hundreds of cases have emerged for those forced to work locally while thousands have refrained from being involved at all. By July 26, 148 cases directly related to the Olympic games had been recorded.

Japan, meanwhile, has begun to experience a third wave of COVID-19 amongst its’ population; The number of new cases has been steadily increasing throughout the month of July and the 28th saw almost 10,000 new cases reported—a devastating increase that will likely precede the worst spike the nation has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

As anxiety increases, many still question whether the Olympics should even occur at all. As it stands, however, aspiring medalists will still have their opportunity to prove to the entire world what physical feats they are capable of. Ultimately, the Olympic games seem to stand as a hopeful celebration of persistence amidst a pandemic—hopefully, it hasn’t come too soon.