Olympics must not be blamed for people letting their guard down

Japanese athletes have been making great strides at the Tokyo Olympics. It is vital to take all possible measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and make further efforts to manage proceedings with a sense of urgency so the Games can be completed safely.

Swimmer Yui Ohashi won her second gold medal of the Games in the women’s 200-meter individual medley following her victory in the women’s 400-meter individual medley. It was the first time a Japanese woman has won two gold medals at a single Summer Olympics.

Japan also won its first gold medal in table tennis, in the mixed doubles event that has been newly introduced at this Games. Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, who both hail from the same municipality, beat a Chinese pair with a perfect team display. That they have achieved this long-cherished goal is a proud moment.

Young Japanese athletes are also bringing good news one after another. Thirteen-year-old Momiji Nishiya clinched the Olympic title in the women’s street skateboarding competition, becoming the youngest Japanese gold medalist in the nation’s history, while Daiki Hashimoto claimed the men’s artistic gymnastics individual all-around gold medal.

In the first half of the Games, the number of gold medals won by Japan has already exceeded the previous record of 16. There must be many people who are encouraged by the feats of Japanese athletes in sports including judo, in which Japanese judoka have won medal after medal.

Outstanding performances have not been limited to Japanese athletes. In the women’s weightlifting, an athlete from the Philippines won her country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. Bermuda, a British overseas territory, was also lifted after winning its first-ever gold medal. Foreign athletes who are performing at their best also deserve hearty cheers.

What is worrisome is the coronavirus infection situation. The number of newly infected people in Japan has reached a record high. The latest declaration of a state of emergency will be expanded to include Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures, and will be extended to the end of August.

In addition to a loosening of self-restraint due to repeated emergency declarations and delays in vaccinations, another problem is the increasing number of young people who casually think that even if they are infected, they will not become seriously ill.

There are some people who link the spread of the virus to the Olympics, but this is misguided.

With infection prevention a top priority, most of the Olympic events have been held without spectators. So far, there have been no major mass infections at competition venues or the athletes village. It can be said that the difficult decision on spectators is producing results.

Athletes and others are doing their best to hold the competitions under strict measures, with their movements restricted to designated locations such as competition venues and the athletes village.

It is of course necessary to make further efforts to implement thorough infection control measures. However, it would be disrespectful to athletes and others to blame the Olympics for the spread of infections.

As the Games enters its second half, thorough restrictions on the movement of athletes and others must continue to be taken to prevent the spread of infections from Olympic venues and related facilities.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 31, 2021.