Businesses in distress forced to temporarily close down near Olympic venues. Olympic visitors required to install intrusive apps and allow GPS tracking. Minders secured hotels so that participants would not come in contact with ordinary Japanese people or visit restaurants where they could sample the sushi.
Japan’s vast security apparatus has been criticized for making Japan look less like China or North Korea during the Games than as one of the most vibrant, powerful democracies in the world.
However, the concern for many isn’t over-reaching Big Brother. The problem is that the 85,000 officials, journalists, and athletes who are expected to enter Japan will not take enough precautions to prevent them from spreading fast-spreading coronavirus variants among a large unvaccinated population.
Takeshi Saiki, an opposition lawmaker said that it was all based on honor and that it is causing concern about media personnel and other participants going out of their hotels to eat at Ginza. He also spoke out against Japan’s lax border control. The majority of Olympic athletes have been exempted so far from the usual quarantine requirements.
As the sheer scale of the task of trying to control so many people becomes more apparent, security has been a constant problem. Japanese media is flooded with stories about Olympic-related individuals testing positive for coronavirus. Photos and posts on social media show foreigners afflicted by the Games drinking in public, smoking at airports, and breaking mask rules.
Ayaka Shiomura (another opposition lawmaker) said that there are “big holes in the bubbles”, referring to the so-called bubbles, which are supposed to seperate the Olympic participants from the rest.
Democracies around world have been tested by the pandemic as they attempt to balance the need to protect basic rights with the national imperative to combat a disease that thrives in large numbers.
Tokyo, unlike other places, will face greater stakes during July and August, as well as closer global scrutiny. It is well-aware of the fact that many domestic surveys have shown strong opposition to the Games. The government insists that it must take security and monitoring precautions to ensure that an Olympics can be held during a pandemic that has never been seen before.
However, as more visitors test the restrictions, officials are being blamed for not doing enough.
Chizuko Ueno (a professor emeritus of sociology from the University of Tokyo) stated that the government and organizers of the Games “are treating visitors like they are potential criminals.”
There is also anger at the fact that Japan is currently facing this balancing act. The International Olympic Committee must ensure the Games take place, regardless of whether the virus is present. This will allow the International Olympic Committee to generate the billions of dollars of media revenue necessary to support its survival.
“The Olympics are an IOC business. The Olympics turned off not only the Japanese people but also other countries around the globe after we all saw the true nature and IOC through the pandemic,” Ken Noguchi, a mountaineer, told the Nikkan Gendai newspaper online.
Senior editors from major international media companies have asked organizers to reconsider some measures that are not necessary to protect residents and participants. They also said they were concerned about the privacy and security of their colleagues.
Japan fared better than most countries during the pandemic, but the Olympians will arrive only a few months following a spike in coronavirus that nearly caused the collapse of some Japanese hospitals and ICUs. Although the surge is now under control, the number of cases is rising sufficiently to warrant the declaration of another Tokyo state of emergency.
Last month, a Ugandan member of a team arrived in Japan and tested positive for the more contagious Delta variant. This was one of the most high-profile security issues. The nine-member team was allowed to travel over 500 km (300 miles) by chartered bus. However, he was quarantined at the airport. A second Ugandan arrived in Japan and tested positive. This forced the team, seven city officials, and drivers who were close to them, to self-isolate.
A member of the Uganda team went missing on Friday. This raises more questions about Olympic participant oversight. Organisers announced that the first resident in the Olympic Village had tested positive to COVID-19 on Saturday. Officials confirmed that it was not an athlete but a non-resident of Japan.
What are the restrictions for Olympic-linked visitors?
The Olympic visitors to Japan are prohibited from using public transport and from visiting bars, tourist spots, and most restaurants for the first 14 days. They can’t even walk or visit any place, unless it is specifically stated in the activity plans. Some exceptions are allowed by organizers, such as convenience stores, take-out places, and rare cases, restaurants with private rooms.
The athletes will be tested for coronavirus daily and placed in isolation in the athletes’ Village. They can also stay in similar locked-down bubbles at training venues or venues. Breaking the rules could result in fines or sent home.
All Olympic athletes will need to download two apps before entering Japan. One app is for immigration and health reporting, while the other app is for contact tracing and uses Bluetooth. If there is an infection or violation, organizers will need to obtain their consent to allow them to use GPS to track their movements and contact information through their smartphones.
Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Organizing Committee, stated that “we are not going to monitor their behavior at all.” “The truth is that if they have any issues regarding their activity, the GPS function will be activated and we’ll be in a position to verify their activities.”
Japan plans to place human monitors in venues and hotels as well, although it is not clear how many.
“We will control all entry and exit. Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa stated that there will be a system in place that prohibits anyone from going outside.
Other countries, both democratically and autocratic have tried to control behavior and business during the pandemic.
For example, the NFL tracked its athletes in their facilities in the United States. South Korean health authorities aggressively used GPS data from smartphones, credit-card transactions records and surveillance video to identify potential virus carriers. To monitor thousands of people quarantined at their homes, tracking apps are used.
China’s mask mandates, lockdowns that confine millions of people to their homes, and national case tracing have been met with little opposition. North Korea has closed its borders tighter and skipped the Olympics. It also severely restricted or canceled access to foreign diplomats, aid workers, and journalists from outside.
Visitors to Japan may find it difficult to comply with security regulations, but they could be very disruptive for locals.
Hiroshi Kato is a fencing instructor. He fears that he will lose more business than during the pandemic. This is because he was ordered to leave the building where he works, which is located across from the main Olympics stadium, from July 1 through Sep. 19, for unknown security reasons.
He said that he felt helpless in an interview. “To safely host the Games, some restrictions must be in place… but organizers knew this for some time and could have offered some assistance.”