A senior member of Japan’s ruling party has said that canceling the Tokyo Olympics “remains an option” if the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.
“If it seems impossible to keep doing it, then we have to stop, decisively,” Toshihiro Nikai, general secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in a television interview that has yet to be broadcast.
While Nikai did not call for a suspension of the Games, his comments are at odds with the united front put forward by the Japanese government, the Tokyo 2020 organizers and the International Olympic Committee. [IOC] – All insist that the postponed event will open as planned on July 23.
The pandemic shows no signs of slowing down in various parts of the world, while experts in Japan have warned that the country has entered a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections driven by mutant strains of the virus.
Nikai, a powerful faction leader of the party who was instrumental in Yoshihide Suga’s election as prime minister last year, said cancellation was “of course” an option, telling TBS network: “If the Olympics would spread infections, so what are the Olympics for? “
The Nikkei business newspaper quoted a senior government official as saying in response to Nikai that it would be “impossible to cancel the Olympics.”
His speech comes just one day after the organizers marked 100 days until the opening ceremony insisting that they would hold a “safe and secure” Games that will be attended by around 14,500 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and tens of thousands of media, sponsors. and officials.
“We will celebrate the Games in a way that is feasible,” said Taro Kono, the minister in charge of Japan’s vaccination campaign, in a separate television interview, according to the Kyodo news agency. “That can be without spectators.”
Overseas spectators will not be allowed to attend Olympic events, and the decision to admit people in Japan to the venues could be made later this month.
Public opinion in the host nation is strongly opposed to the Games, with a recent poll showing that 39.2% thought they should be canceled and 32.8% asked for them to be postponed a second time, a move that the IOC has said it is unfeasible.
The “cancellation of the Olympics” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday with more than 35,000 tweets. “If this person says so, the Olympic cancellation seems a reality,” one said in reference to Nikai’s comments.
Akira Koike, a deputy for the Japanese Communist Party, said holding the Games was already “impossible”, adding that a decision on cancellation should be made quickly.
Pressure on the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizers increased after several medical experts questioned the decision to go ahead with the Olympics during the pandemic.
In an editorial of these weeks BMJ, Kazuki Shimizu, Devi Sridhar, Kiyosu Taniguchi and Kenji Shibuya said that it would be a mistake to host large numbers of people from abroad in Tokyo this summer.
“The entire world community recognizes the need to contain the pandemic and save lives,” they wrote. “Celebrating Tokyo 2020 for domestic, political and economic purposes, ignoring scientific and moral imperatives, is contradictory to Japan’s commitment to global health and human security.
“We must rethink this summer’s Games and instead collaborate internationally to agree on a set of global and national conditions under which international multi-sport events can take place in the years to come.
“These conditions must incorporate Olympic and Paralympic values and adhere to international public health principles.”
The authors noted the slowness of vaccinations in Japan, where less than 1% of the population has been inoculated. “Even healthcare workers and other high-risk populations will not have access to vaccines before Tokyo 2020, let alone the general population,” they said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism