The 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are just a month away, but if John Oliver had his way, they wouldn't be happening, at all. On Sunday, the Last Week Tonight host made a case for canceling the summer games outright, as Japan has struggled to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, and vaccination rates remain incredibly low. The reason for proceeding with the Olympics despite these safety concerns? "You can't help feeling that the main motivator in this event taking place is money," said Oliver. "So, will it be worth it?"
Before diving into an extended segment on PACE, a program designed to pay for environmentally-friendly home renovations, Oliver spent a few minutes discussing the Olympics' seemingly-misguided attempt to ignore COVID-19 altogether. "Despite the fact that the pandemic is very much not over, the games seem to be going ahead," he said, before playing a clip about Dr. Shigeru Omi, "Japan's version of Dr. Anthony Fauci," urging caution ahead of the Olympics. As the clip explains, Japan's daily death rate is higher than it was last summer, when the games were scheduled to take place, and the country is only administering 500,000 vaccines each day, only half of its desired target.
"Yeah, that's not good," said Oliver. "In fact, only 6 percent of the Japanese population is currently fully vaccinated. And while I don't know what the target percentage should be to host safely host the Olympics, I'm pretty sure that right now it should be higher than the number of entries in the Fast and the Furious franchise."
"The Olympics going ahead is undeniably risky, and the organizers seem to be considering a lot of different factors — with many being financial, especially as Japan's already officially spent over $15 billion on these games, with government audits suggesting it's actually twice that much," continued Oliver. However, only the International Olympic Committee, not Tokyo, can cancel the games, a situation that the host described as "kind of weird." Added the Last Week Tonight host, "It'd be like if your child got the flu, and you tried to reschedule their birthday party, only to get overruled by the clown you hired."
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays at 11:00 PM ET on HBO.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.