Olympics have lockdown aura. But the narrative isn’t locked in.


Since 1948, the Summer Olympics have kept to their quadrennial schedule – despite boycotts, scandals, and terrorist attacks. Past Games have only been canceled in wartime. So the postponed, public health-restricted Tokyo Games are unprecedented in the modern Olympic era.

Where many hoped the Games would showcase revival from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster or even from the pandemic itself, instead spectators are banned and athletes face calls for social distancing. In polls, the Japanese public prefers canceling the Games, though support is rising.

Why We Wrote This

Against a pandemic backdrop, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo are accompanied by no shortage of challenges. Yet the narrative of Tokyo isn’t predetermined – and the promise of internationalism and athleticism remain.

“There’s a lot of voices out there that think the Olympics should not be going on,” says Patrick Cottrell, a political scientist at Linfield University in…

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