These rants debuted on the Internet in mid-2001. Ignoring the occasional Topical Rant and the late-but-not-lamented Mythical Picks posted here, the Daily Rants comprise the bulk of the offerings. Today marks the 4000th Daily Rant. If this pace continues, I could reach 5000 in about 5 years. Onward…
Living in the DC suburbs, the Washington Post is my local paper; I get lots of information and inspiration for the stuff I write here from the Post. However, yesterday, the information for today’s rant came from the front section and not the sports section; that is not normally the case. On the front page, there is a report from Tokyo about the sentiments in Japan as they get closer to the scheduled beginning of the Olympic Games. There is frustration and anger there at the former Prime Minister who sought a one-year postponement of the Games last summer locking in this August as the scheduled date; there is frustration and anger with the IOC; there is frustration with the Japanese bureaucracy that has been amazingly slow to react to the COVID pandemic considering Japan’s status as a developed country with a stable economy.
As things stand now, the Games will go on – – but there will not be any fans from outside Japan in the stands. There may – or may not – be people from Japan attending some of the contests at some of the venues; but they will be told not to cheer or shout, nor will they be allowed to eat or drink alcohol while in attendance. Even the athletes will have a different experience as compared to other Olympiads; once the athletes have finished their performances, they will be told to go home instead of being able to stay on in the Olympic Village.
Japan has been slow to get a vaccination program going; there is a significant “vaccine-hesitancy in the country and the way things look now, most people under the age of 65 in Japan will not be vaccinated by the time the Games are scheduled to begin; official estimates say that 5-8% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated at this time. Public opinion in Japan is not favorable toward the games nor to the government bureaucrats that have allowed this less-than-satisfactory situation to obtain. And all of that puts a backdrop on a story that broke last week saying that 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers for the Olympics have let organizers know that they are not going to do what they had volunteered to do.
According to an Associated Press report, the Olympics in Sydney back in 2000 had 40,000 volunteers who provided about $60M worth of services for the organizers. It was not clear from the report why the games in Tokyo would need 80,000 volunteers but losing more than 10% of that “free labor” so late in the game cannot make life any easier for organizers. Bob Molinaro reacted to the resignation of volunteers with this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Future watch: Should the Tokyo Olympics go on as planned? Seven weeks before the lighting of the flame, 10,000 Japanese volunteers voted with their feet, walking out on unpaid jobs. But at this late date, it’s full- speed ahead.”
On an inside page of the front section of yesterday’s Washington Post there was a story with the following headline:
- As virus rages on, Brazil braces for international soccer matches
Just to give you a flavor of the report, here is the first paragraph:
“RIO DE JANEIRO – Most Brazilians don’t want it. Major sponsors have fled. Even players balked at the idea. But ready or not, the Copa America, one of Latin America’s most important sporting spectacles, is coming to town.”
The pandemic situation in Japan is not good; they lag badly in vaccinations. The pandemic situation is Brazil is much worse; Brazilians face a third wave of infections and rising death rates. In soccer-crazed Brazil more than 60% of Brazilians oppose hosting the tournament; one Brazilian senator has called this the “championship of death”. Brazil is home to a variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more transmissible than the dominant one here in the US. The presence of that variant has created this “third wave” of infections which has resulted in 70,000 new cases per day in Brazil. The idea of crowds forming during and after matches with low vaccination rates and a highly transmissible virus is not appealing to public health professionals.
Once again, politics comes into play. President Jair Bolsonaro has a very low approval rating at home. When other Latin American countries said they would not host this year’s tournament, Bolsonaro stepped into the vacuum an announced – unilaterally – that Brazil would take on the task. Here is the way he explained his decision:
“The Copa America will happen in Brazil. From the beginning I’ve been saying in regard to the pandemic: I’m sorry for the deaths, but we have to live.”
Here is some of what teams and players face regarding this year’s Copa America:
- Venezuela left three players home when they tested positive for COVID. After arriving in Brazil, another 8 players plus 3 coaches tested positive. The team sent them home and “called up” 15 new players for the squad. Venezuela lost its first game yesterday to Brazil by a 3-0 score.
- Bolivia had 3 players and 1 coach test positive after arrival in Brazil. The rest of the team is in quarantine instead of at practice. Bolivia’s first game in the tournament is later today against Paraguay.
I often point out in these rants that the intersection of sports and politics is usually bad news. The two examples above would seem at first glance to be an intersection between sports and the pandemic – – but the political dimension in both situations makes the two a three-train collision. Such a mess…
Finally, since today’s rant has been about the pandemic, let me close with Mark Twain’s observation about health:
“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………