A Japanese ruling party’s senior official said abandoning this year’s Olympics in Tokyo remains an option if the covid-19 crisis becomes worse, as the fourth wave of infections surges less than 100 days from the planned start of the Games.
“If it seems impossible to do it any more, then we have to stop, decisively,” Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in comments to broadcaster TBS.
Cancellation is “of course” an option, Nikai said. “If the Olympics were to spread infection, then what the Olympics are for?” he added.
A key backer of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, party heavyweight Nikai is known for his frank comments, which come as many other ruling party lawmakers have avoided discussing the hot button issue of a possible cancellation.
The world’s biggest sporting event has already been delayed by a year and is being held without international spectators.
Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections, with numbers trending higher in Tokyo after the government ended a state of emergency, and Osaka suffering a record number of cases.
The government is pushing ahead with preparations incorporating social distancing measures and other restrictions for the Games set to begin on July 23, with a scaled-back torch relay underway.
“We’ll hold (the Games) in a way that’s feasible,” Taro Kono, a popular minister in charge of Japan’s vaccination drive, said on a separate TV program, according to Kyodo News. “That may be without spectators,” he added.
Earlier, Japan has banned foreign spectators from attending this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics due to the global pandemic of the coronavirus.
A statement issued by the Olympic organizers on Saturday said that the Japanese authorities have reached this conclusion in order to clarify the ticket holders living abroad.
The statement said that the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee fully respect Japan’s decision and recognize it.
Japanese officials told the Olympic and Paralympic Committees that it was extremely difficult for foreign spectators to be assured of entry into the country.
He said the announcement would make the situation clearer for ticket holders and help secure the Games for all participants and the Japanese public.
Last year’s scheduled Olympics were postponed for a year and now the Games are scheduled to take place in Tokyo from July 23, with the Paralympics set to begin on August 24, a month later.
The organizers said that due to the challenging situation of COVID-19 in Japan and other countries of the world, travel restrictions, and the spread of a new type of virus, we were forced to make this decision and refund those who bought tickets.
For the first time in history, the World Games were postponed in March last year due to a virus threat, with more than 11,000 athletes from 200 countries taking part.