Tokyo Olympics Chief (Again) Rules Out Cancelation Or Postponement Despite Growing Opposition To The Games
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, again insisted on Thursday that the Olympic games cannot be further delayed or canceled despite a wave of setbacks, the latest being concerns raised by the Japanese government’s top health official that holding the games in the middle of the pandemic is “not normal.”
Speaking to the Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports, Hashimoto doubled down on previous refusals to cancel and said postponing the games was out of the question as it would take a lot of work and the sporting venues may not be available.
Hashimoto noted that the only situation that could lead to the cancellation of the games is if the pandemic worsens around the world and it prevents most countries from coming to Japan, but she asserted that the games can’t be canceled for any other reason.
On Wednesday, Shigeru Omi—Japan’s top Covid-19 advisor—warned that it was “not normal” to host the Summer Olympics in the country’s capital during the pandemic.
Omi asked the organizers to scale down the event as much as possible and communicate their moves clearly if they want cooperation from the larger public.
According to the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga—whose approval rating continues to slide—is expected to call a snap election after the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Reports suggest that Suga is hoping for the games to be a success which may help bolster his political party’s chances at the polls.
What To Watch For
The G7 group of nations are planning to back Japan’s efforts to push forward with its plans to stage the Olympics this summer. According to the Japan Times, the G7 will issue a joint statement later this month following a summit of their leaders. The public backing has reportedly been “strongly requested” by the Japanese government as it attempts to turn the public’s opinion in favor of the games. Following a virtual meeting in February, leaders of the G7—which includes the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan—said in a statement they “support the commitment of Japan to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner this summer as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19.”
8.2%. That’s the percentage of Japan’s population that has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine according to a tracker run by Bloomberg. While the number remains low compared to other developed nations, Japan’s rollout has picked up significant pace in the past few weeks. According to the Japan Times, the seven-day average of doses has quadrupled in the past two weeks and nearly a quarter of the country’s 14 million doses were administered in the past week itself. Japan has set an ambitious target of inoculating its entire elderly population of 36 million by the end of July.
Despite the speedup of its vaccine rollout and a drop in daily new infections, Japan continues to see close to 100 deaths from Covid-19 every day. The Olympic host city, Tokyo, also continues to witness an average of 500 new Covid-19 cases a day, implying that the situation is far from under control. Japanese doctors have called for the games to either be postponed or canceled and warned that the country’s medical infrastructure is already stretched thin by the pandemic. The games have faced a few major setbacks with at least 40 Japanese towns abandoning plans to host visiting athletes amid concerns about inadequate resources. Several districts near Tokyo have also warned that Olympic athletes will not receive any priority in treatment in case they are infected. The biggest setback to the games, however, occurred on Wednesday when it was revealed that nearly 10,000 volunteers for the Olympics have withdrawn their participation. The public perception of the games have also been impacted by seemingly tone-deaf statements from senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials. IOC president Thomas Bach faced a torrent of criticism in Japan after suggesting that “some sacrifices” would have to be made to allow the Olympics to go forward. IOC vice-president John Coates has told reporters that the Olympics in Tokyo will go ahead even if there is a state of emergency in the country.