Olympics in Tokyo Japan?


Always I am keeping my eyes on Japan. Over the last weeks I have been helping equip, mentor, and consult people working in Japan. The vision to reach the Japanese has not gotten cool in the chill of the pandemic. One group is using solely the internet and media to reach Japanese. Another group is gearing up several teams to enter Japan shortly. Another mission agency has asked me to join in their journey revisiting their entire strategy to evangelize the Japanese. Now comes one of the biggest events in Japan, the Olympics.


The first Tokyo Olympics in 1964 was a great occasion to highlight the development of Japan. After the destruction of World War II, it was the Japanese way of saying we are back. The 2020/21 Olympics in Tokyo Japan starts next week, on Friday July 23rd. Because of the pandemic it looks like a TV remote Olympics with no spectators, just TV coverage. The 2020 Olympics in Japan were to be the pinnacle of a growing economy, with millions of visitors, showcasing Japanese technology, their ability to overcome difficulties like natural disasters, and a focus on Japan as a great world leader. Instead, these Olympics already have developed a gloom and sadness over the entire nation. Japanese do not know what to expect.  


Covid-19 has done a number on the Tokyo Olympic preparations by throwing a monkey wrench in those plans. The 2020 Olympics were postponed for one year. Now in 2121 Japan is still fighting the pandemic. Tokyo has just announced their 4th state of emergency that will last through the end of the Olympics. The number of Covid-19 cases in Japan is not like seen in the US. But in Tokyo, the world’s largest city, an exponential increase in cases could easily overwhelm the health care system. Currently vaccinations are only about 20% of the entire Japanese population.

Due to Covid restrictions, the Olympic athletes will not get to interact with other athletes, other sports, or even venture out to see Japan as tourists. Olympians are basically restricted to their rooms, their practices, and their competitions, and have to leave Japan soon after they are done competing. Even with these restrictions, Japan is very concerned that this Olympic event could mean an increased rate of Covid infections possibly with the more infectious variants. Many Japanese have encouraged postponing again or outright cancelling the Olympics completely. Even the Japanese Emperor, who normally does not comment on public policy, spoke through his medical advisor encouraging extra caution with holding the Olympics. After much debate in Japan the Olympics will still be held, but yet so differently.


  • The Olympic Torch relay will be run throughout Japan basically without spectators.
  • No foreign spectators are allowed to view in person the Olympic competitions.
  • The brand-new expensive national stadium in Tokyo will be largely empty even for the opening and closing ceremonies.
  • When the outdoor marathons and walking races take place, they are encouraging people not to watch from the roadsides.
  • Most Japanese spectators are not allowed, and only special invited guests and VIPs will be able to be see the competitions.
  • Not all the events will be in Tokyo as some events will be held outside in Hokkaido, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Shizuoka prefectures hundreds of miles away. There some local fans will be allowed to watch with Covid restrictions.

For most of us not in Japan we know the Olympics is a made-for-TV affair. Now most Japanese are encouraged to stay home and watch the Olympics on television with their TV remotes.

These restrictions during the Olympics make it extremely difficult for evangelistic outreaches to Japanese, foreigners, and Olympians. We know of several who will be working as translators and chaplains during the Olympics. Pray for their safety and creativity to share the gospel in this unusual environment.

Whether the Olympics is successful or not there is a high possibility this event could affect the national psyche for years to come. Japanese avoid at all costs to look bad or to be shamed. For them, here there are great opportunities for the hope of Jesus Christ, the ultimate victor, and his resurrection power throughout Japan. Pray that believers, churches, and leaders would all use this time to increase their opportunities to share Christ with Japanese.


While you watch the Olympics, I appeal to you to pray that God would break the spiritual barriers of the Japanese which is the second largest unreached people group in the world. Many nearby Asian nations also contain many unreached people groups. May you pray for spiritual breakthroughs and the revival of the church throughout Japan and Asia.

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