After the governors of Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama requested the central government to declare another state of emergency to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, calls have increased for the government to announce the cancellation of the Olympic Games scheduled for the summer.
Although the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee told members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party that “The Games will happen,” a growing number of citizens, as well as business leaders and media executives say that the country should cancel the games.
Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and a former Japanese prime minister, told lawmakers on Tuesday that, “No matter what situation would be with the coronavirus, we will hold the Games.”
Mori added that, “We should pass on the discussion of whether we will hold the Games or not, but instead discuss how we should hold it.”
Although calls for the Olympics to be cancelled have grown, Mori, along with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach have pushed back and said the Olympics will open on July 23rd, with 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of judges, officials, media, broadcasters, sponsors and VIP’s, and that the Tokyo Paralympics follow on Aug 24 with 4,400 athletes.
Recent polls from several media outlets report that 80% of the Japanese public believe the games should be canceled or postponed again.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday extended for an additional month, the state of emergency orders for Tokyo and nine other prefectures. The original order went into force on January 7 after a dramatic increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases occurred.
Mori defended the Olympics and the Olympic Torch Relay, scheduled to start on March 25th and said to lawmakers that: “The biggest problem is the way Japanese people see the Olympics now. And secondly, how we should proceed with the preparations for the games while combating the coronavirus. These two points are our primary focus.”
The Olympic Torch Relay is scheduled to begin on March 25 in northern Japan and will crisscross the country for four months with 10,000 runners, as the torch makes its way to Tokyo. Last month, as the COVID-19 virus numbers increased, there was discussions about cancelling the event, but according to Japan IOC executives, the sponsorship for the torch relays by Coca-Cola and Toyota made that difficult.
Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee said at the beginning of the year that, “We can only thank our Japanese partners and friends for their great commitment and their determination, which is absolutely in line with our commitment and our determination to organize these games in a safe and secure way for all the participants and to make these Olympic Games fit for the post-coronavirus world.”
With citizens from more than 150 countries banned from entering Japan, and new variants of the COVID-19 virus rising across the world, it remains to be seen whether Japan can enact the health and safety protocols that will allow it to hold the games. Government leaders say that the games should be held, in even a limited fashion, so that the economy can be boosted, but citizens say that their health and safety should not be sacrificed and that Japan should cancel the games immediately and stop spending taxpayer money.