Covid-19 Could Force Olympics Cancellation, Says Top Japanese Politician
A senior Japanese politician said cancelling the Tokyo Olympics over the coronavirus remains a possibility on Thursday, as a surge in cases renews concerns about the Games with less than 100 days to go.
Toshiro Nikai, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s number two, said the Olympics must be cancelled “without hesitation” if the virus situation is too severe.
A year after their historic postponement, the 2020 Olympics remain beset by pandemic problems, with parts of the torch relay forced behind closed doors and public support consistently low.
Organisers and Olympic officials insist the Games will go ahead safely, but Nikai said Thursday that all options were on the table.
A lone protester (L) holds up a sign in reference to recent comments made by Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, next to a display of the Olympic Rings outside the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo on February 11, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
“We need to make a decision depending on the situation at the time,” he told the private TBS television network.
“We need to cancel it without hesitation if they’re no longer possible,” added Nikai, who is the LDP’s secretary general.
Asked if he considered cancellation an option, Nikai said: “Yes of course.”
“If infection spreads because of the Olympics, I don’t know what the Olympics is for.”
He added however that he sees the Games as an “opportunity”, and it was “important for Japan to foster excitement with support from the public”.
“We definitely want to make a success. In order to do so, there are various issues to solve. It’s important to solve them one by one.”
– ‘Might be no spectators’ –
The comments were quickly dismissed by an unnamed LDP official, who told the Jiji news agency: “The Games will not be cancelled.”
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she had “been told that the comment meant it is an option”.
“I take it as a message of strong encouragement that we contain the coronavirus by all means,” she said.
Japan’s vaccine minister meanwhile mooted the possibility of a total bar on spectators at the Games.
“We’ll hold the Olympics in a form that is feasible,” the Asahi newspaper quoted Taro Kono as saying.
“There might be no spectators.”
Nikai’s remarks come with fresh worries in Japan about what experts have called a fourth wave of infections.
Record numbers of cases have been reported in Osaka in recent days, and the government has been forced to authorise new restrictions just weeks after lifting a virus state of emergency.
The surge has already forced the Olympic torch relay off public roads in Osaka, and a city in western Japan also announced Wednesday that it would cancel the public event. (AFP)