Toshihiro Nikai, the Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party, said last week that canceling the Tokyo Games “is still an option.” Nikai is the number two person in the LDP and his statement has cast additional doubt on whether the Olympic and Paralympic games will be held.
Nikai’s remarks came as a surprise, with multiple stakeholders, including government officials, organizers and sponsors shocked, since Japan has tried to create an illusion that the games will occur even though Japan is battling the COVID-19 pandemic and more than 72% of Japanese citizens say the games should be cancelled or postponed.
Nikai said during an interview with Japanese broadcaster TBS that, “If it’s too difficult (to hold the games), they should be canceled. He also questioned the logic of holding the games and said, “What is the point of the Olympics if it helps spread the virus further?”
Doubts about the Tokyo Games have been prominent in Japanese media, and a poll conducted by Japanese news agency Kyodo News last week revealed that 39.2% of respondents want the Games to be cancelled and 32.8% are in favor of another delay.
In the midst of the global COVDI-19 pandemic, scientists have clashed both publicly and privately with organizers about how a “safe” games can be held. Discussions include the number of international athletes and officials who should be allowed in the country and the number of domestic spectators who should be allowed to attend events in person.
Organizers announced in March that overseas fans would be banned from attending, and multiple people have reported that currently the internal debates are about how many, if any, domestic spectators will be allowed to attend the games.
Taro Kono, a top Japanese politician who is in charge of the country’s vaccine rollout, said in an interview on TV Asahi that the games “could be held without spectators,.”
Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, said during an interview with the Nikkei newspaper that, “At 50% (spectator capacity), sufficient precautions can be taken.”
Scientists however have warned that even holding the games without spectators would be dangerous if COVID-19 is still running rampant.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that the Tokyo Games will be canceled if they aren't held this year and it continues to maintain that preparations are moving forward to hold the Olympics safely in July.
A report published in the British Medical Journal last week, which was peer-reviewed, urged Japanese officials and the IOC to reconsider hosting the Tokyo Games, pointing to the country’s failure to contain COVID-19 community transmission.
The report states, “While the determination is encouraging, there has been a lack of transparency about the benefits and risk, and international mass gathering events such as Tokyo 2020 are still neither safe nor secure.”
It adds that, “Holding 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.”