Of the major sporting events around the world that have been struggling for a semblance of return to normalcy, a considerable mountain looms — the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Initially scheduled to begin in July, the event has been tabled altogether for an unknown date, with officials announcing a return “by the summer of 2021”.
But medical experts say that the Games, which involve over 200 countries, would pose a major health risk to not just the Japanese public, but to participants and officials all over the globe, with antibodies and vaccines predicted to be insufficient even if available.
“With events like the Olympics, the virus will come in for sure and the number of infections will shoot up inevitably,” Daiichi Morii, one of the doctor’s from Osaka University Hospital’s infection control team, told Reuters.
“The virus is barely under control as we are putting a halt on the inflow of people from overseas. With the Olympics, the number of infections will inevitably rise.”
Experts also believe that, despite hundreds of potential vaccines in trial, none will be ready in time for the Olympics, a sentiment that is echoed by professor Atsuo Hamada of the Tokyo Medical University Hospital.
“Even if a vaccine has been developed by then, it’s near impossible for it to go around the world.”
With a population of 14 million in Tokyo alone, Japan’s relative success in containing the virus effectively means very few antibodies among the population. According to a government survey, only 0.1% of Tokyo residents have coronavirus antibodies, as compared to 14% in New York and 7% in Stockholm.
Tokyo, as well as some of its bordering areas like the western region of Kansai, have also seen new single-day records for the number of infections ever since the government lifted its nationwide state of emergency in May 2020.
Yet despite seeing a spike in new infections over July, the country has marginally skirted the destructive effects in comparison to other countries around the world, which has led authorities and the government to rule out the abolishing of the Olympics altogether.
President of the Olympics organising committee Yoshiro Mori has reiterated his hopes for the Games, stating that a watered down, simplified version will provide a safer environment, as well as cut costs, although no concrete plan of action has since been announced.
Yet, concerns are aplenty throughout the city. In a Tokyo voter survey conducted by one of Japan’s most substantial newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun, almost 60% of citizens polled have reiterated that the Games should be postponed further or better yet, cancelled altogether.
Mori, together with recently re-elected official Yuriko Koike, have set up plans for a dedicated task force with the authorities to be enacted by September to address the growing public concern.
The current re-elected governor of Tokyo, Koike has stated on multiple occasions her insistence on going ahead with the Games. However, no concrete point of action, or plan, has been set out by the government nor the Olympics production team yet.
The delay has cost Japan between $2 billion to $6 billion, having already spent roughly $12 billion in preparation; and while the host country disputes the Games’ possibility, all around the globe the pandemic’s effects are further compounded.
In the United States, television broadcaster NBC, having already pledged about $8 billion for media rights to the Olympic Games’ franchise, are scrambling to find solutions for the circumstances amidst the possibility of a compressed competition.
The US, usually boasting the largest population of participants in the Olympics, now finds itself in the middle of discussions to reduce the participating contingent, or pull certain athletes out of the games entirely.
“It’s impossible to predict what the circumstances will be a year from now,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer at NBC for the Games. “This has a chance to be the most memorable Games in History.”
To date, the US has recorded 4.75 million cases of the virus, with 157,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been 18 million cases, with 689,000 deaths.
The Olympics have only been abolished during the two World Wars, with one also being Tokyo, in 1940.
Daigo ‘The Beast’ Umehara is a 39-year-old Japanese gamer who specialises in 2D arcade fighting games. He has won six Evolution Championship Series and $175,659.82 in prize money so far. Daigo Umehara is one of the most famous Street Fighter players across the globe, considered the best player globally. Daigo is also currently the holder of a world record for being “the most successful player in major tournaments of Street Fighter” in the Guinness World Records. Daigo’s recent win at the Street Fighter V tournament has traction in the media, but his age has caught the most attention.
Being 39 and winning a championship might seem impressive, but winning at street fighting games for someone of Daigo’s calibre isn’t all that unexpected. Daigo has been in the fighting-gaming scene for 20 years.
Daigo was endearingly referred to in the Japanese media as “the god of 2D fighting games” before singing on a sponsorship deal with Mad Catz. This American company produces entertainment products marketed under Mad Catz, Game Shark, and TRITTON. His love for fighting games grew since he was a mere ten-year-old boy, with his first two games being Street Fighter 2 and Fatal Fury: King of Fighters. Through challenging other players in Street Fighter 2 (Champion Edition), Daigo discovered his preference for competing with other players.
Daigo’s recent win in the latest Capcom Cup East Asia has brought him more spotlight in the media. In the match, Daigo competed with several talented Street Fighter V players, including the revered Street Fighter legend Hajime ‘ Tokido’ Taniguchi and Korean Hyung-suk ‘Verloren’ Gong. Daigo beat them both in his journey to the Capcom Cup qualifying match and did not suffer a single loss, until his last opponent, Keita’ Fuudo’ Ai, fought his way to a second set in the grand finals. Ultimately, The Beast won an incredibly intense competition with some of the best FGC pros in Asia.
The focus on Daigo’s win was distracted by his age, with a lot of fixation on him being 39 years old, yet winning a Street Fighter tournament in 2020. For someone of Daigo’s calibre, however his win shouldn’t be much of a shock but more so something to expect of him. His earliest tournament win was during the 1997 Vampire Savior event hosted by Japanese video game magazine Gamest. Daigo’s successive wins included Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Capcom vs SNK 2, Guilty Gear XX, Street Fighter IV, and the most recent Street Fighter V.
Coming in second next to Justin Wong in the Evolution Championship Series titles; he has won six EVO championships with his legendary performances in the biggest tournaments globally. More impressively, Daigo cinched two victories at Super Battle Opera, which is now defunct but once highly regarded as the most prestigious fighting game competition in the world at its inception.
His skillset, coupled with his 23 years of experience, would set him up for success. Daigo implemented a few tactical methods to help him secure his win during the tournament. For instance, he would opt for maximum damage combos that would provide him with the life lead, and force his opponents into playing against his defence. His ability to read his opponents well also plays to his advantage, along with his fluid conditions: he never stays in one position for long, often toggling between offence and defence, confusing his opponents.
Daigo’s impeccable performances throughout his gaming career have brought him regular participation in tournaments, having been in at least one each year since the start of his gaming career in 1997. His success in his Street Fighter career has also earned him entry into every Camcom Cup since the game’s release in 2016.
The esports industry’s strong fixation on youth and how to exploit it might have made Daigo’s win come as a surprise. After all, what’s a 39-year-old doing, winning video games designed for young ones? But Daigo is a living example of how age does not define anything. His past experiences in fighting games and current win in the recent tournament showcases and represents what esports truly is about at heart: a foundational passion for gaming that isn’t found in other competitive sports. Daigo Umehara might have shocked the world recently with his stellar performance in the Street Fighter tournament, but he has been and will continue to be, a legend in 2D fighting games.