The Tokyo Olympics are due to open in three days, but the head of the organizing committee refused Tuesday to rule out the possibility of a last-minute cancellation if the number of COVID-19 infections among athletes continues to soar.
At a press conference, Toshiro Muto said he was observing the number of infections, with 71 cases of coronavirus having been reported since July 1 in people accredited to participate in the Olympics or present there in certain roles.
“We will continue the discussion if there is a spike in cases,” said Muto. “As of now, coronavirus cases can go up or down, so we will consider what we should do when that situation arises.”
However, a spokesperson for Tokyo 2020, so named in reference to last year’s postponed Olympics, said organizers were “100% concentrated on hosting a successful Olympics.”
Several corporate sponsors have canceled plans to attend Friday’s opening ceremony due to the pandemic and there will be no spectators at some athletic events, to reduce health risks.
Japan’s vaccination program has failed compared to most other developed countries. Japan recorded more than 840,000 infections and 15,055 deaths. A spike in cases was reported in Tokyo where 1,387 new infections were recorded Tuesday (20/7).
In order to create an Olympic “bubble,” repeated COVID-19 testing is required, and is designed to limit the movement of participants.
But Seiko Hashimoto, chairman of the organizing committee, told a news conference that security measures designed to appease the Japanese public did not necessarily work. Seiko Hashimoto realized that popular support for the Olympics had declined. [mg/jm]