by Senji Torrey
As the excitement for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics grows coming up on July 24, so do rumors of potential cancellation. Due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus and the host country Japan’s geographic closeness to China, the epicenter of the outbreak, this prospect is seeming more and more likely by the day.
Because of its appealing architecture and respected culture, the Olympic committee decided to have Japan host the Olympics for the fourth time.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caused confusion and hysteria among the Japanese public. Similar to California’s lack of toilet paper, Japan currently has a shortage of masks, which would protect Japan’s working population.
Since the first recorded cases of the virus in Japan on Jan. 15, the country’s government has restricted large-scale events and even shut down schools in order to isolate and control the outbreak. In addition, prime minister Shinzo Abe has called meetings with top officials nearly every day to propose and analyze Japan’s fight against COVID-19. On the economic front, Abe has proposed a 15 billion dollar budget to support companies that have lost customers due to the virus, as well as 4 billion dollars to revive the economy.
A major problem that the virus causes is the restriction on large amounts of people in close proximity to one another. This could be a problem for sports such as track and field, where many of the events involve up to 24 runners within feet of each other. In addition, considering it takes only one infected individual to spread this virus, the amount of spectators that attend almost every Olympic event is another point of concern for the Olympic committee. At the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, over 7.5 million tickets were sold; as a reminder, Rio was fighting the Zika virus at this time, making this number much more significant.
Due to the potential loss of revenue for Japanese companies, many of them have begun creating solutions and “workarounds” in order to ease the panic. One company at the forefront of this strategy has been Toyota. The company has begun developing robots, buses, and shuttles that will help minimize contact with other people during transit. For example, the e-Palette shuttle allows athletes, spectators, and others to smoothly move around; since this shuttle only carries four people at a time, this also minimizes the likelihood of the virus spreading.
Although the e-Palette will be very beneficial, perhaps the most important of Toyota’s developments would be the HSR, or Human Support Robot. This machine brings food, materials, and other resources to people’s doors, removing the opportunity for the virus to spread through individuals distributing and receiving materials.
As we close in on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, many fans, analysts, and even the Olympic Committee are questioning the risks and rewards presented by the coronavirus outbreak. While going through with this prodigious event may cause mass infection of the virus, the cancellation of it will break a century-long tradition that has defined the characters of many countries.
(Sources: Olympic.org, Daily Beast, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC)