— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on May 25, 2021, Tuesday.
As one of the most influential business leaders and the richest man in Japan according to Forbes, Masayoshi Son's comments on social media further highlight the concerns within Japan of hosting the Tokyo Olympics Games. In a series of tweets, Son questions the authority's decision to proceed with the Games despite opposition from 80% of the public. He said the losses would far outweigh the benefits; and it may trigger a new wave of infections and more lockdowns, dragging down Japan's growth. Last week, Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, Japan's largest e-commerce company, called Tokyo Olympics a "suicide mission". In an interview with CNN, Mikitani said he had tried to convince the government to cancel the plan. He gave the Japanese government a score of "two out of 10" for its handling of the pandemic.
Calls from Japan's business community reflect the broader worry within the society. A survey by the Asahi newspaper mid this month found that 83% of Japanese wanted the event to be canceled or postponed, much higher than the 69% figure from April. A survey taken in neighboring South Korea showed that 78% of respondents opposed the Tokyo Olympics this year. Covid cases are rising in Japan, but its vaccination rate is just around 2%.
Dr. Anthony Fauci
National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases Director
"If you have such a low level of vaccination, of course, there is a concern that's up to the Japanese authorities, what they're going to do with their country during the Olympic season. So I would hope that more people get vaccinated because that low percent is really concerning."
In light of the rising risk, the U.S. State Department issued a level-4 travel advisory on Monday, warning against travel to Japan. The "Level 4: Do Not Travel" advisory is the highest cautionary level in the department's hierarchy of warnings. Though it does not specifically mention the Olympic Games, the advisory brings new uncertainty to the games, which is scheduled to happen within two months. As we know, it's always a complex issue to measure the benefits and costs of the Olympics. Despite the criticism, the income from the Games can still be substantial. Many sports companies and sponsors are still looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics.
"I think that the Olympic Committee is doing whatever they can to make sure that event is going to take place. So we're still hoping that's going to take place, the complexity is very high. And I think eventually, it's going to come down to do let people into the stadiums."
Japan's real GDP contracted an annualized 5.1% in the first quarter. Now, the government is focusing on the Tokyo Olympics. Economists interviewed by us expect no further stimulus from the Japanese government, hence the economy is unlikely to improve much in the second quarter. The major uncertainty lying ahead is whether or not the Games can proceed as planned; if yes, can Japan prevent more infections and lockdowns?