Japan’s Olympic Security Balance Act is almost unsatisfied

Tokyo (AP) — A struggling company that has been forced to close temporarily around the Olympic venue. Olympic visitors ordered to install an invasive app to allow GPS tracking. Minder is betting on the hotel so that participants do not come into contact with ordinary Japanese people or visit restaurants to sample sushi.

Japan’s large-scale security system will make the country look more like authoritarian North Korea or China than one of the most powerful and vibrant democracies in the world during the weeks of the Games. I raised a complaint.

But for many here, it’s not as worrisome as Big Brother. Strengthening precautions alone will bring an estimated 85,000 athletes, officials, journalists, and other workers to Japan to rapidly spread coronavirus variants to the majority of unvaccinated people who are already suffering from an increase in cases. Not enough to prevent it from being introduced.

“It’s all based on the honor system, raising concerns that media people and other participants may leave the hotel to dine in Ginza,” opposition lawmaker Takeshi Saiki said. He mentioned what he called Japan’s loose border control. So far, the majority of Olympic athletes and other participants have been exempt from normal quarantine requirements.

As the enormousness of trying to crack down on so many visitors becomes apparent, security is regularly disrupted and the opening ceremony is imminent. The Japanese press is full of reports that Olympic-related people have tested positive for the coronavirus. Photos and social media posts show that foreigners linked to the game are breaking the rules of masks, drinking in public and smoking at the airport.

Another opposition lawmaker, Shiomura Ayaka, said that “the bubble has a big hole” about the so-called “bubble” that should separate Olympic participants from other countries.

The pandemic has tested democracy around the world in an attempt to strike a balance between the need to protect basic rights and the state’s obligation to control diseases that thrive when a large number of people gather.

However, few places faced higher interests than Tokyo in July and August. The government is well aware of the repeated domestic investigations that show strong opposition to the Olympics, saying that safety and surveillance measures are important in trying to make the Olympics successful during a century-old pandemic. Insist.

However, authorities have been accused of overdoing and overdoing because the limits are being tested by increasing the number of visitors.

Chizuko Ueno, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Tokyo, said on YouTube that the government and convention organizers “treat visitors as if they were potential criminals.”

Japan also faces this balancing act as the International Olympic Committee needs to hold competitions to generate billions of dollars in media revenue, which is essential for its survival, regardless of the state of the virus. The resentment over the widespread sentiment of being alive has been prolonged.

“The Olympics are held as an IOC business. People around the world, not just Japanese, were turned off by the Olympics after seeing the essence of the Olympics and the IOC through pandemics,” said mountaineer Ken Noguchi. He told the online version of the Gendai newspaper.

Meanwhile, a senior sports editor at a major international media company asked the organizers to “reconsider some measures beyond what is needed to keep participants and residents safe,” and “a colleague’s I’m ignoring personal privacy and technical security. ” “

Japan is doing better than many countries during the pandemic, but Olympic athletes are only a few months after the ICU is flooded with illness and some Japanese hospitals are nearing collapse due to the coronavirus surge. Arrive. The surge has eased, but there are enough incidents to declare yet another state of emergency in Tokyo.

One of the hottest security issues arose last month when a Ugandan team member arriving in Japan tested positive about what turned out to be a more contagious delta variant. He was quarantined at the airport, but the remaining nine teams were allowed to travel more than 500 km (300 miles) to pre-Olympic camps on chartered buses. Seven city officials and drivers in close contact with them for self-isolation.

On Friday, a Ugandan team member went missing and had further questions about monitoring Olympic participants.

So what are the restrictions faced by Olympic-linked visitors?

For the first 14 days in Japan, Olympic visitors outside the Olympic Village are banned from using public transport and to bars, attractions and most restaurants. In fact, you can’t take a walk or go anywhere, as it’s not specifically stated in the pre-submitted activity plan. There are some exceptions approved by the organizers: specially designated convenience stores, takeaway locations, and, rarely, some restaurants with private rooms.

Athletes who are tested for coronavirus daily are expected to be quarantined in the Olympic Village and stay there or in bubbles that are also trapped at venues and training sites. Violations of the rules may result in return or fines and loss of your right to participate in the competition.

Everyone involved in the Olympics will be required to install two apps when entering Japan. One is an immigration and health reporting app and the other is a contact tracking app that uses Bluetooth. You must also agree to allow the organizer to use GPS to monitor their movements and contacts via their smartphone in the event of an infection or rule violation.

“We are not going to monitor our behavior all the time,” said Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Organizing Committee. “But if you run into problems related to their activity, the GPS feature will be turned on so you can see their activity.”

Japan is also planning to install human monitors at venues and hotels, but the number is not yet clear.

“We control all entry and exit. We will put in place a system where no one can go out freely,” said Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa.

Other countries, both democracy and dictatorship, have also sought to manage and monitor behavior and business during the pandemic.

For example, in the United States, the NFL team tracked players at team facilities. South Korean health officials are actively using smartphone GPS data, credit card transaction records, and surveillance videos to find and quarantine potential virus carriers. Tracking apps are used to monitor thousands of individuals isolated at home.

In China, mask obligations, blockades that keep millions at home, and nationwide case tracking face little or no opposition. North Korea closed its borders even more severely, skipped the Olympics, and canceled or severely restricted access to foreign diplomats, aid workers and external journalists.

Japan’s security regulations can be a nuisance to visitors, but can also hurt the locals.

Fencing’s Hiroshi Kato was worried that he would lose even more business than during the pandemic as he was ordered to move from the building opposite the Olympic main stadium from July 1st to September 19th. Said that. For unspecified security reasons.

“I feel helpless,” he said in an interview. “I understand some restrictions to keep the tournament safe … but (the organizer) knew this for a long time and could probably provide us with some help.”


Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyun of Seoul, South Korea and Hironobu Komiya of Tokyo contributed to this report.