Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Understanding the extent of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to Uganda’s Olympics contingent.

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By Ali Mutanje

206 countries including Uganda will take part in the 2020 Olympics games. They will all compete in 50 disciplines. 

Uganda hopes to qualify for the Olympics in five disciplines. Athletics, Boxing, Weightlifting, Skateboarding and Rugby teams. 

The expected Ugandans to participate are;  Albert Chemutai in the 3000m steeplechase, Joshua Cheptegei in the 5000 and 10000 meters,  and Jacob Kiplimo in the men’s Athletics category. 

The Women’s athletes will have Esther Chebet( 1500 m), Juliet Chesang (marathon) and Halimah Nakayi (800m). 

Shadri Bwogi(men’s welterweight), Kavuma David(men’s middleweight), Catherine Nanziri(women’s flyweight). 

Catherine Grace will be in the singles sculls for the women in rowing. 

Uganda will also hope the rugby 7s team joins in at the Olympics in Tokyo. 

The Uganda Olympics Committee expects to send a delegation of 50 people including athletes, technical and government officials to Japan. 

Japan’s stand 

Japan is a beautiful country from the culture, the music, the arts to the transport and the history. 

All this was on display when Japan hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Tokyo. It was a friendly display between hosts and guests. For anyone present at the tournament, it was easy to spot the local furniture, the logos and the advertising campaigns all displaying the Olympics. This was all ongoing even after Japan had played twice and even beat Ireland. 

They had embraced the rugby tournament, but there is no doubt what the Olympics meant to them. 

For the country to reject the Games now, something must have gone wrong. And something went wrong. 

What went wrong 

Japan was a bit slow in the fight against COVID. They only started administering the Pfizer and BioNiech vaccines in mid-February this year. In a period when other countries were treating the virus with urgency. 

Japan did not change their process of administering the Corona Virus Vaccine. Only qualified medical personnel, doctors and nurses were allowed to administer the vaccine. Not even dentists and pharmacists. This made the rollout slow. 

This means by the time the Olympics are scheduled to begin, estimates show that only those over the age of 65 will have been vaccinated. And yet not all of them. 

Therefore those who will be interacting with the Olympic entourage will not be protected. 

Why don’t the hosts want us?

The Olympics games are a prestigious event. For 3 weeks the focus of the world is on your city. Different people celebrating with you in your wonderful city bringing things to life. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, the Japanese don’t. Maybe rightly so. 

The majority of the Japanese do not want us there for the Olympics, they now resent it and those attached to it including Uganda. They now see it as an invasion of their city. 

On Monday, Asahi Shimbun published an article that reported; of the 1,649 foreign nationals connected with the Olympics entering Japan since April 1432 were exempted from quarantine. This included 24 from India of whom 14 did not quarantine. India having the most virulent strain of the virus. 

Yet Japanese residents must quarantine for 2 weeks. The post reached over 5 million people, this is the 2nd biggest seller in the country. 

In another recent poll by Asahi Shimbun, 83% opposed Olympics.  Last week, they published an editorial calling for the Olympics to be cancelled. It’s strange given Asahi Shimbun are one of the sponsors of the Olympics. 

Why the hate? 

Roughly, 90,000 athletes, officials, journalists, sponsors and support staff will be heading to Tokyo. This includes the 50 from Uganda. 

Tokyo is a city in a state of emergency occupied by people who don’t want us there. With the vaccine administered to only 4.1% of the population and only 30% medical workers. 

Hotel employees, coach drivers, media centre workers, airport staff, stadium staff-: they all haven’t got the vaccine yet they are the people who will directly interact with these 90,000 guests. 

To the hosts, 90,000 presents an incalculable risk, regardless of how many masks they wear. 

Even if those fears are unfounded, they are still fears! Provided the games carry on, the atmosphere will be one of tension and possible hostility. 

With the hostility, it’s a serious threat to any Ugandan planning to travel for the Olympics. The question remains, how shall we be good hosts in a city that doesn’t want to host us?

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