Days before the opening ceremony, the head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said on Tuesday he would not rule out canceling the Games over COVID-19 concerns.
“We cannot predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases,” Toshiro Muto said. “So we will continue to discuss if there is a spike in cases.”
As it stands, the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Games, which was postponed last year due to the coronavirus, is scheduled for Friday.
Several major sponsors, including Panasonic and Fujitsu, have decided to skip the opening ceremony, and Toyota has decided to discontinue all Tokyo Games-related advertisements.
Meanwhile, the organizers are facing a tough time with 67 cases of COVID-19 detected among those attending the Olympics since July 1.
“We have agreed that depending on the situation in the coronavirus, we will call a five-party dialogue again,” Muto said. “At this point, the cases of coronavirus may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
The spectacle of the opening ceremony comes amid the harsh reality of the virus in Japan’s capital city. On Tuesday, Tokyo reported 1,387 new COVID-19 infections, with an average of 1,100 cases per day.
Due to the outbreak, events at the Games will be held without spectators.
Tokyo has been operating under a state of emergency since 22 August – the fourth since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. Despite protests from residents and warnings from doctors that hospitals could be flooded with COVID-19 patients, the games will continue.
The country has been slow to vaccinate its residents, with only 22.5 percent fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. In contrast, the United States and Canada are hovering around 50 percent.