Australian Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell (Image: AP/Lee Jin-man)

A countdown in yellow and green on the Australian Olympics website shows there are just 185 days until the Tokyo Olympics are set to kick off.

But whether the event — already postponed by a year because of the pandemic — should go ahead is still up for debate. Athletes and Japanese officials are keen but Tokyo’s residents are less certain. The country had record cases of COVID-19 last week.

This could be the first time since World War II the Olympics are cancelled. International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has said if they don’t take place this summer they will not happen.

There’s not much time to decide: they are due to begin on July 23, but a decision will have to be made by March because the torch relay is scheduled on the 25th of that month.

Who wants it to go ahead?

Two-time gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell has said athletes should receive the vaccine ahead of other priority groups in the second or third rounds of injections to help the event go ahead.

This falls in line with calls from long-serving IOC member Dick Pound.

“In Canada we might have 300 or 400 athletes,” he told Sky News. “To take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level — I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that.”

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said yesterday: “We will press ahead with preparations, with determination of building watertight anti-infection measures and holding an event that can bring hope and courage to the world.”

Between 2013 and 2016 — which included the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio games — the IOC generated US$5.7 billion in revenue, mostly from marketing and broadcasting sales.

But host countries rarely break even after building stadiums and athlete accommodation. Japan has already spent at least $21 billion. Limited international visitors and socially distanced stadiums mean Japan isn’t likely to make money from spectators.

What’s putting it in doubt?

Japanese cabinet minister Taro Kono cast doubt on Friday, saying “anything can happen”, and pressed the IOC to think about backup plans. His comments come after the minister in charge of Japan’s pandemic response warned that Tokyo’s medical system was already “stretched thin”.

Japanese people are overwhelmingly against inviting athletes from 205 countries to their capital. More than 80% of Tokyo residents do not want the games to go ahead this year.

Japan is in the midst of its third wave of the pandemic. New daily cases climbed to record highs last week, with nearly 8000 new cases a day. The state of emergency has been extended to cover seven new regions. Yesterday 1204 new cases were reported in Tokyo. The UK’s more infectious variant of the virus is also spreading throughout the community. Not everyone has been following contact tracing and social distancing rules either, leading officials to consider legislating heftier fines and jail time.

Australian honorary IOC member Kevan Gosper has pushed for the United Nations to act as an arbitrator on whether the games should go ahead, arguing they were beyond an issue related just to sport.

What is the country doing about it?

More than 11,000 athletes are expected to compete and live at the nearby Olympic village. The athletes’ residences, where they usually stay for the duration of the games, are notorious for late-night parties and hook-ups; 110,000 free condoms were doled out at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

This time there’ll be no late night or early morning rendezvous. Athletes will be only allowed into the country five days before they compete and will be told to leave Japan within two days after their event.

Organisers have agreed to reduce the number of athletes at the opening and closing ceremonies from 11,000 to 6000. They won’t make the vaccine mandatory for athletes to compete in Tokyo, and officials were examining “comprehensive anti-infection measures”, with multiple COVID-19 tests and screenings likely for visitors.