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Tokyo’s big Olympics bet backfires badly

TOKYO – If an Olympics falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

This philosophical thought experiment is raising tantalizing economic questions as Tokyo tries its hand at a silent Summer Games.

Literally. The long-suffering – and delayed – extravaganza in which Japan invested so extravagantly is being dubbed the “no fun” Olympics. To stage one during a pandemic, Tokyo is issuing a bewildering barrage of safety protocols – from no cheering to no sex to no booze. The upshot is an event with more rules than spectators.

Yet the silence that might matter more is the economic impact for which Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s party paid upwards of US$25 billion. In fact, it might even be a drag at a moment as Asia’s No 2 economy is struggling to avoid a double-dip recession.