Tokyo : Are the Games truly cursed? Tokyo organizers press ahead, seeing symbol of recovery from disasters.

From the moment that Japan pitched to host the 2020 Olympic Games, its organizers have framed it as a symbol of recovery : from a decades-long economic slump, from a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster and, after a year's postponement, from a crippling pandemic.

Now, as the organizers press ahead with plans to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer, the event itself threatens to become a trial from which Japan may take years to recover.

A series of health, economic and political challenges have besieged the games. Even as the organizers decided last week to ban international spectators, epidemiologists warned that the Olympics could become a superspreader event.

Thousands of athletes and other participants will descend on Tokyo from more than 200 countries, while much of the Japanese public remain unvaccinated.

The financial hazards are also significant - the Olympic budget has swollen to a record of $15.4 billion, increasing by nearly $3 billion in the past year alone and adding to long- standing doubts about Whether Olympic Games pay off for host nations.

And the Tokyo organizing committee has been swamped by leadership chaos, with both the president and the creative director resigning in past month after making sexist remarks.

Through it all, the fundamentally undemocratic nature of Olympic decision making has grown only more glaring. The Olympic torch relay began some three weeks ago, and with the opening ceremony scheduled July 23, Japan's government is delaying the wishes of much of the public.

In polls, close to 80 percent say the Games should be postponed again or cancelled outright.

''I don't know any reason for why you would go out to watch these Olympics Games,'' said Hyoung Min Yoo, 29, who works in finance in Tokyo.

He had secured coveted tickets to swimming and track and field finals but now has no interest in getting anywhere near the Olympic Stadium or aquatics center.

''I wish they postpone the Olympics to the next time,'' he said.

In the telling of the Olympic organizers, staging the Games this summer is something close to a moral imperative.

The president of the Tokyo organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, recently cited the ''significant challenges'' facing the world and the responsibility of the Olympics ''to build a legacy for the future society.''

But money, national pride and political obduracy are also in play.

The World Students Society thanks authors Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida.


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