Japan’s Olympic security record leaves few satisfied

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The chairs are numbered in the celebration area for foreign visitors at Narita International Airport on July 10, 2021, in Narita, near Tokyo. Japan’s massive security apparatus for the upcoming Summer Olympics is denouncing that the nation, during the weeks of the Games, will look more like authoritarian North Korea or China than one of the most powerful and vibrant democracies. Of the world. Credit: AP Photo / Jae C. Hong

Companies in struggle forced to temporarily close the Olympic venues. Olympic visitors were ordered to install invasive applications and allow GPS tracking. Minders set up hotels to prevent participants from coming into contact with normal Japanese or visiting restaurants to taste sushi.

Japan’s massive security apparatus has claimed that the nation, during the weeks of the Games, will look more like North Korea or authoritarian China than one of the most powerful and vibrant democracies in the world.

The concern for many here, however, is not too big brother. Is that all the increased precautions will not be enough to prevent the 85,000 athletes, officials, journalists and other workers arriving in Japan from introducing fast-spreading coronavirus variants to a largely unvaccinated population that already has trouble increasing cases .

“Everything is based on the honor system and it is worrying that the media and other participants can leave their hotels to eat in Ginza,” said Takeshi Saiki, an opposition lawmaker, about what he called lax Japan border controls. To date, most Olympic athletes and other participants have been exempt from the typical quarantine requirements.

There have been periodic security breaches as the huge attempt to attack so many visitors becomes more evident and the opening ceremony is approaching. The Japanese press is full of reports from people related to the Olympics who test positive for coronavirus. Photos and posts on social media show strangers linked to the Games violating the rules of masks and drinking in public, smoking at airports, even if biographical information is accurate, posting in dating apps.

“There are big holes in the bubbles,” said Ayaka Shiomura, another opposition lawmaker, referring to the so-called “bubbles” that would supposedly separate Olympic Games participants from the rest of the country.

The pandemic has tested democracies around the world as they try to find a balance between the need to protect basic rights and the national imperative to control a disease that thrives when people gather in large numbers.

Few places, however, have faced higher stakes than Tokyo will do during the months of July and August, or a closer global examination. The government, well aware of repeated national polls showing strong opposition to the Games, argues that its security and surveillance measures are crucial as it tries to push the Olympics forward during a pandemic once a century.

Japan's Olympic security record leaves few satisfied

Foreign visitors are waiting in the celebration area for a COVID-19 test at Narita International Airport on July 10, 2021, in Narita, near Tokyo. Japan’s massive security apparatus for the upcoming Summer Olympics is denouncing that the nation, during the weeks of the Games, will look more like North Korea or China than one of the most powerful and vibrant democracies in the world. world. Credit: AP Photo / Jae C. Hong

But as the restrictions are tested by a growing number of visitors, officials have been blamed for doing too much and too little.

The government and the organizers of the Games “treat visitors as if they were potential criminals,” Chizuko Ueno, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Tokyo, told YouTube.

There is also persistent resentment at the widespread feeling that Japan is facing this balancing act because the International Olympic Committee needs the Games to take place, regardless of the state of the virus, to get the billions of dollars. in critical media revenue for their survival.

“The Olympics are done as an IOC company. Not only the Japanese, but other people around the world, were turned off by the Olympics after we all saw the true nature of the Olympics and the IOC through the pandemic.” , said mountaineer Ken Noguchi said the online edition of the newspaper Nikkan Gendai.

Meanwhile, senior sports editors from major international media companies have called on organizers to “reconsider some measures that go beyond what is necessary to keep participants and residents safe,” saying they “show a disregard for personal privacy and security.” technology of our colleagues. “

During the pandemic, Japan has fared better than many nations, but the Olympics will arrive a few months after a coronavirus has had some Japanese hospitals on the verge of collapse as the ICU fills with sick people. Although the increase has tempered, cases are rising enough to declare another state of emergency in Tokyo.

One of the most high-profile security issues occurred last month when a member of the Ugandan team who arrived in Japan tested positive for what turned out to be the most contagious delta variant. He was quarantined at the airport, but the rest of the nine-person team was allowed to travel more than 500 kilometers in a rented bus to its pre-Olympic camp, where a second Ugandan tested positive, forcing the ‘team and seven city officials and drivers who had close contact with them to isolate themselves.

On Friday, a member of the Uganda team disappeared and raised further questions about overseeing Olympic participants. On Saturday, organizers said the first Olympic Village resident had tested positive for COVID-19. Officials said he was not an athlete, but was not resident in Japan.

Japan's Olympic security record leaves few satisfied

A foreign visitor looks at his smartphone as a plane approaches Narita International Airport on July 10, 2021, in Narita, near Tokyo. Japan’s massive security apparatus for the upcoming Summer Olympics is denouncing that the nation, during the weeks of the Games, will look more like North Korea or China than one of the most powerful and vibrant democracies in the world. world. Credit: AP Photo / Jae C. Hong

What are the restrictions on visitors linked to the Olympics?

For the first 14 days in Japan, Olympic visitors outside the village of athletes are prohibited from using public transportation and going to bars, tourist sites and most restaurants. They can’t even take a walk or visit any place, in fact, this is not specifically mentioned in the activity plans presented in advance. There are some exceptions allowed by the organizers: specifically designated convenience stores, takeaways, and in rare cases, some restaurants that have private rooms.

Athletes, tested daily for coronavirus, will be isolated in the village of athletes and are expected to stay there, or in similarly closed bubbles at training sites or venues. Those who violate the rules could be sent home or fined and lose the right to participate in the Games.

Everyone who is associated with the Olympics will have to install two applications upon entering Japan. One is an immigration and health reporting app and the other is a contact tracking app that uses Bluetooth. They must also consent to the organizers being able to use GPS to monitor their movements and contacts via their smartphones if there is an infection or a violation of the rules.

“We will not control the behavior at all times,” said organizing committee general manager Toshiro Muto. “However, if there are problems related to its activity, since the GPS function will be activated, we will be able to verify its activities.”

Japan also plans to park human monitors in places and hotels, although it is not yet clear how many.

“We will control all entrances and exits. We will have a system that will not allow anyone to leave freely,” said Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa.

Other nations, both democratic and autocratic, have also tried to control and control behavior and business during the pandemic.

Japan's Olympic security record leaves few satisfied

The Olympic rings are placed in front of Narita International Airport on July 10, 2021 in Narita, near Tokyo. Japan’s massive security apparatus for the upcoming Summer Olympics is denouncing that the nation, during the weeks of the Games, will look more like authoritarian North Korea or China than one of the most powerful and vibrant democracies. Of the world. Credit: AP Photo / Jae C. Hong

In the United States, for example, NFL teams tracked their athletes at team facilities. South Korean health authorities have aggressively used GPS data from smartphones, credit card transaction logs and surveillance videos to find and isolate potential virus carriers. Tracking apps are used to track thousands of individuals in quarantine at home.

In China, mask warrants, foreclosure closures that limit millions in their homes, and case monitoring nationwide have faced little or no opposition. North Korea has further closed its borders, skipped the Olympics and severely canceled or severely restricted access for foreign diplomats, humanitarian workers and foreign journalists.

While security restrictions in Japan will pose a problem for visitors, they could also severely affect locals.

Hiroshi Kato, a fencing instructor, said he worries that he will lose even more business than he did during the pandemic because he was ordered to move from the building where he works in front of the main stadium of the Olympic Games. on July 1 to September 19. for unspecified security reasons.

“I feel powerless,” he said in an interview. “To celebrate the Games safely, some restrictions are understandable … but (the organizers) knew it for a long time and maybe they could have helped us.”


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