It’s Here: The Pandemic Olympics

Athletes raise the Japanese flag at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Tokyo, July 23, 2021. Image: Jan Woitas/picture alliance/Getty
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Athletes raise the Japanese flag at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Tokyo, July 23, 2021. Image: Jan Woitas/picture alliance/Getty

After a year’s delay, the Olympics are back–-but far from back to normal.
 
The atmosphere ahead of an almost-empty Opening Ceremony this morning was “totally awkward and flat,” missing the electricity of crowds, reports The New York Times.

'Safe and Secure'?

But despite the sacrifice of pomp and circumstance, deep doubts persist over the event’s safety, as 85,000 people converge in the capital of host country Japan–-currently in its fourth COVID-19 state of emergency–-for the ceremony, Al Jazeera reports.

  • Already, 106 people have already been confirmed infected at the Games, Japan Times reports.

  • Earlier this week, 68% of respondents in Japan to an Asahi Shimbun poll didn’t think the Olympics could be held safely. Surveys in other countries revealed similar concerns, FiveThirtyEight reports.


Despite barring most spectators, daily testing for athletes, contact tracing apps, and “bubbles,” the IOC’s playbook drew sharp critiques for inadequate, poorly enforced rules.

  • The plan relies on “cheap” measures based on outdated wisdom, says Annie Sparrow of Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, who reviewed the playbook in the New England Journal of Medicine.

  • What’s missing, says Sparrow: Single-room accommodation, hospital-grade air filters in all event spaces, across-the-board testing, and medical-grade face masks.

More striking developments from the Games:

Czech Olympic Team Investigates Charter Flight After 4 Athletes Test Positive –NPR
 
International Paralympic Committee, World Health Organization sign memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the promotion of diversity and equity in health and sports – WHO
 
This deaf-blind Paralympian was told to navigate Tokyo alone. So she quit Team USA. – The Washington Post
 
Guinea reverses decision to pull out of Olympics over COVID-19 concerns –UPI

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