Could Tokyo 2020 be the most irresponsible Olympics ever?

By Yuki Sekimoto

The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony is set for July 23 and the games have already begun in Japan, as Tokyo remains under a declared state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic in Japan is not over yet and according to the recent opinion poll the interest in the Olympics this year is muted, with 78% of Japanese people disagreeing that this summer’s Olympics should go ahead.

Unfortunately the Tokyo Olympic Village has already seen the first athletes test positive for COVID-19 just 4 days before the opening ceremony. Although Japanese Prime Minister Suga has pledged to stage “safe and secure” games to the people, there is no guarantee under the current situation.

Such an irresponsible attitude did not begin with Covid. The Tokyo Olympic organizers have been irresponsible from the beginning.

The terrible track record of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Since 2018, RAN has repeatedly reported that timber and plywood connected to the clearance of critical tropical rainforest were used for the construction of the facilities of the Tokyo Olympic Games. However, the IOC and Tokyo Olympic organizers have ignored these claims. This is a clear violation of its commitment to sustainability, as embodied in its Sustainable Sourcing Code, but instead, Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have engaged in green-washing to appear as if they are keeping their sustainability promise.

The New National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan — built with plywood sheets harvested from Indonesia’s rainforests. Photo: Yuki Sekimoto

And what’s even more tragic is that the new National Stadium, built with large quantities of tropical plywood linked to rainforest destruction, will not even be filled by spectators in the actual Games because of Covid concerns. The Stadium will remain silent, just like the now-silent forests the plywood came from.

The IOC must do more to ensure the Olympic Games leaves a sustainable legacy in both the host country and around the world, particularly in countries from which it sources. The IOC should enforce strict sustainability standards by monitoring and holding accountable host countries that are not complying with the highest environmental and social standards.

How will the organizers take responsibility for the destruction of the sacrificed tropical forests and orangutan habitats?