Tokyo Olympics: COVID-19 puts dampener on Japan's plan to stage 'Recovery Games'

With many in Japan against the Tokyo Olympics being held, there's a real sense of disappointment.

Part of the country's motivation to host the Olympics was to repay the world for its help in 2011 - a pledge they're now unable to fulfill that dream.

The tsunami was in those sudden moments - it felt like great areas of Japan were being washed away.

Almost half a million were left homeless, 15,000 people died and all the world could do was watch in horror.

In the months and years that followed, much of Japan's northern coast was rebuilt.

Countries from all across the world came here to help, including New Zealand.

Japan was looking for a way to say thank you for that help and hosting the Olympics was that perfect opportunity.

But 10 years on - at a time when it hoped to welcome the world, instead of worrying about its own - Japan now finds itself in the midst of another crisis.

"Especially at the moment, I'm worried about the mental state of our medical staff," says Tokyo resident Marina Inasaka.

COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time.

Inasaka, who was a student in Christchurch, says it's now hard for Japan to show it's gratitude, with foreign spectators now unable to attend.

"We want to repay our obligation," she says. "We get the support in 2011, when we had an earthquake."

They were initially labelled the 'Recovery Games' and officials don't want that message to be lost.

"People couldn't come here, because of COVID-19, but we always want to say thank you very much for the support of the reconstruction," says Recovery Games official Jieun Oh.

Even if the Olympic torch was paraded through these rebuilt towns, many Japanese just don't want the Games to begin.

The Recovery Games, the Quiet Games, the COVID Games... these Games have had many names, but it seems unlikely they'll be remembered as the 'Thank You Games'.

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