John Oliver Makes the Case for Canceling the 2021 Tokyo Olympics
The “Last Week Tonight” host argued that Japan’s COVID-19 situation is still too dire for the Summer Olympics in July—a sentiment echoed by the country’s own scientific adviser.
John Oliver kicked off Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight by addressing the deeply strange Biden-Putin summit where, when asked whether the meeting helped U.S.-Russia relations, Putin offered an ominous quote from Leo Tolstoy: “There is no happiness in life. There’s only a mirage on the horizon.”
“Wow. That is a dark answer,” said Oliver. “Though I can’t really say I expected anything less from a man whose very face screams, ‘I enjoyed the Joker film.’”
Later on in the monologue, the HBO host explored the upcoming Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo, Japan, after a one-year delay owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are heavy protests in the streets against the Tokyo Games, and Dr. Shigeru Omi, president of the Japan Community Health Care Organization, a board member of the World Health Organization, and the country’s Dr. Fauci equivalent, said the COVID-19 situation is still out of hand in the country, adding, “We believe the risks of infections inside venues would be lowest by holding the event with no fans.” (The country has set a 10,000-fan limit for each event.)
Japan is distributing around 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots a day—only hitting half of its desired target—and the daily death rate in Japan is even higher than when the games were delayed last year.
“That’s not good,” explained Oliver. “In fact, only 6 percent of the Japanese population is currently fully vaccinated. And while I don’t know what the target percentage should be to host safely host the Olympics, I’m pretty sure that right now it should be higher than the number of entries in the Fast and the Furious franchise.”
“The Olympics going ahead is undeniably risky and the organizers seem to be considering a lot of different factors—with many being financial, especially as Japan’s already officially spent over $15 billion on these games, with government audits suggesting it’s actually twice that much,” he continued. “And the truth is, even if Japan wanted to cancel, it’s not quite that simple.
Yes, according to its host city contract, only the International Olympic Committee can cancel the games, not Tokyo.
“The fact is, despite protests, it seems like the Olympics are going ahead. And all of this is a pretty good reminder that hosting the Olympics is never a good idea for a city—and it’s not like Japan needs the Olympics to boost tourism. It’s Japan!” exclaimed Oliver. “And while I truly hope for everyone’s benefit that this works out, you can’t help feeling that the main motivator in this event taking place is money. So will it be worth it?”