In the past 3 and half years, I have been investigating the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as a soft power tool. I have taken a holistic approach in the context of understanding my case study, this holistic research approach arose because I have never travelled to Japan and I have never experienced the Japanese culture in reality. My views on Japan and its culture stem from an external Influence of playing Japanese-related video games and watching TV series. However, I have planned to travel to Japan for data collection and to experience, in reality, the  Japanese culture and way of life. It turned out that the negative factors of globalisation had a different plan for my research, with the spread of Covid-19 and the subsequent pandemic. The emergence of Covid-19 meant that I could not travel to Japan, I could not attend the Olympic Games and collect data for my research.

Because of the global pandemic, Covid-19 forced the direction of my research approach and resulted in my data collection taking place online; this included interviews and desk-based research analysing Japan’s policy documents. The biggest challenge for my research is the influence Covid-19 has had on my research data. I have had to be conscious of considering the role of Covid-19 and its impact on the hosting of the Olympic Games. For example, an ideal soft power for a nation is discussed in terms of a country’s attractive political ideals, culture,  development of tourism and in the context of soft power the hosting of mega sports events like the Olympic Games. There were clear indications from my literature review that Japan is an ideal soft power nation, considering the cool Japan initiative, that includes Japan’s cuisine, anime and manga. Not forgetting its liberal political dynamics compared to its Asian neighbours. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games had a shown great promise in terms of becoming a vehicle for Japan’s soft power.

However, the impact of Covid-19 leading to the global pandemic, and global economic recession, exposed the weak and handicapped healthcare systems of many countries both developed and underdeveloped. The organisation of sports events and mega sports events became less of a priority. This also had an impact on national and international public opinion that health should come first before any form of sports competition.

In the case of Japan, public acceptance of hosting the Olympic Games in the middle of a global pandemic was very low. WIth every passing day, it became less logical that the Olympic Games should go ahead. At this point, I began to question my research because the Olympic Games as a vehicle for soft power in the context of Japan may have just become a vehicle of soft disempowerment. As vehicle for soft power,  Japan might have hoped to increase tourism, brand its national and political image, display how economically strong it has become and, also, grow its economy through foreign direct investment. Soft disempowerment – on the other hand – means that instead of potentially achieving all of its soft power goals, hosting the Olympic Games in the middle of a pandemic became an upset; an offence that led to a loss of attraction or influence among Japanese citizens. 80% of Japanese people opposed the hosting of the Olympic Games. 43% wanted the Games cancelled and 40% wanted a further postponement of the Games.  In ordinary times, it is safe to say that by winning the bid to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Japan had the potential to use the Games as a vehicle for soft power. Then, the foremost research question might be a consideration of how soft power in the context of the Games be measured. However, this is not the case, the emergence of Covid-19 meant that I have had to reconsider the importance of hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as a vehicle of soft disempowerment.

The emergence of Covid-19 made it easier to measure soft power as soft disempowerment in the context of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Against a backdrop of low public acceptance or support, the Games became unattractive and less of a priority in the middle of the pandemic. The hosting of the Games in the middle of the pandemic defeats its soft power purpose of achieving, growth in tourism, and adequate media representation of Japan’s national and political image among other soft power aims. However, reflecting on my journey so far investigating the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as a soft power tool, there is more of an echo of soft disempowerment than soft power.