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Japan’s Unwanted Olympics

Public opinion, consistently against the games, has soured for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, too.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A man wearing a face mask walks past the Olympic Rings ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 19, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
A man wearing a face mask walks past the Olympic Rings ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 19, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Toru Hanai/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Tokyo 2020’s key sponsor scraps ad campaign amid public discontent, Haiti’s interim prime minister resigns, and Pedro Castillo is confirmed as Peru’s president-elect.

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Tokyo 2020’s key sponsor scraps ad campaign amid public discontent, Haiti’s interim prime minister resigns, and Pedro Castillo is confirmed as Peru’s president-elect.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Tokyo 2020’s Popularity Problem

As more COVID-19 cases emerge in Tokyo’s Olympic Village, public doubts about the safety of the athletes and the public threaten to upend the competition before its official launch on Friday.

The Olympics will take place in a city under a state of emergency, as new daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo have already surpassed a spike recorded in May.

Tokyo’s decision to host the games has been met with public derision for months. A recent Asahi Shimbun poll found that 68 percent of respondents doubted organizers could control coronavirus infections, while 55 percent said they didn’t want the games to go ahead.

Public apathy has spooked major business partners, too. On Monday, the car giant Toyota announced that it was scrapping its aptly named “Start Your Impossible” Olympic-branded ad campaign in Japan for the duration of the games. “It is turning into an Olympics that cannot get understanding [from the public] in various ways,” Toyota’s operating officer, Jun Nagata, told reporters.

Budget problems. While Tokyo’s Olympic organizers can still hope that such apathy evaporates once the festivities begin, they also face more tangible public concerns: the price tag. Originally budgeted at $7.3 billion, the final bill is now roughly $30 billion. The overrun brings it in line with every Olympics since 1960.

Suga low. With spectators banned from attending events, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is unlikely to receive the goodwill boost he sorely needs ahead of an election to be held on or before Oct. 22. A monthly poll gave his cabinet its lowest-ever approval rating last Friday—garnering only 29.3 percent support. As Kazuhiro Maeshima wrote in Foreign Policy in June, the Olympics were always a gamble for Suga.


What We’re Following Today

Haiti’s transition. Claude Joseph, Haiti’s acting prime minister, stepped down on Monday, heading off a power struggle that has played out since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 7. Joseph, who was Moïse’s foreign minister, served as acting prime minister before Moïse appointed Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, to the role two days before his death.

Henry’s leadership has been supported by the international community, including the United States, but it’s unlikely to put a stop to the country’s ongoing political crisis. Some members of Haitian civil society groups have criticized the move—and its international support—and pushed instead for a new interim government disconnected from the country’s former leadership. “The same regime is continuing with another face and another name,” Monique Clesca, a former United Nations official and Haitian pro-democracy advocate, told the Washington Post.

TRIPS council meets. The World Trade Organization’s Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) meets Tuesday as countries continue to discuss a waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, equipment, and treatments after a proposal was first put forward by India and South Africa last October. While the United States backs a partial waiver, rich countries including EU member states, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and Canada remain opposed. With such heavyweight opposition in a body that votes by consensus, an August deadline to achieve a deal seems unlikely to be met.

Colombia’s Congress returns. Anti-government activists plan mass protests across Colombia Tuesday as Congress returns following its summer recess. Lawmakers are expected to debate a revised $4 billion tax reform proposal that abandons an unpopular value-added tax increase in favor of pushing up the country’s corporate tax rate from 31 percent to 35 percent. On Monday, Finance Minister José Manuel Restrepo told the Financial Times that he expects the bill to pass by August.

Peru’s new president. Pedro Castillo has finally been declared Peru’s president-elect more than six weeks after voters cast their ballots, after election officials certified his victory late Monday. His challenger, the right-wing Keiko Fujimori, said she would accept the election agency’s decision while at the same time baselessly claiming that the vote was fraudulent. Castillo’s election is a remarkable rise for the socialist schoolteacher, whom some polls predicted would place 10th in the first round of the presidential contest. His inauguration is expected on July 28, the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence.


Keep an Eye On

Brexit issues. The United Kingdom is expected to threaten to change its approach to the Northern Ireland protocol of its Brexit deal with the European Union if EU officials don’t compromise over its terms, Reuters reported on Monday. Brexit Minister David Frost, who is expected to present a proposal to British lawmakers on Wednesday, has reportedly considered triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, which allows for unilateral action if the protocol “leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade.”

Ethiopia’s civil war. Tigrayan forces have expanded military operations into the neighboring Afar region, an Afar spokesperson said on Monday, adding that fighting began on Saturday. Getachew Reda, a Tigrayan military spokesperson, confirmed that fighting had expanded into Afar but that the campaign would be limited. “We are not interested in any territorial gains in Afar. We are more interested in degrading enemy fighting capabilities,” he said.


Odds and Ends  

Authorities in Malaysia have sent a message to electricity thieves by destroying more than 1,000 cryptocurrency mining computers with a bulldozer, as they seek to crackdown on illegal cryptocurrency mining. The 1,069 high-powered computers had been seized by authorities in the city of Miri in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in a joint operation between local police and the state electricity utility. Six individuals were arrested for stealing roughly $2 million worth of electricity to power the mining operation. Miri authorities may have recouped some of their losses by following the lead of China, whose cryptocurrency crackdown reportedly includes selling off seized computers rather than crushing them into dust.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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