A man wearing a face mask stands behind the Olympic symbols of the five nested rings depicted near the National Stadium in Tokyo.
James Matsumoto, SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
A senior official from the Japanese ruling party said canceling this year’s Tokyo Olympics remains an option if the coronavirus crisis gets too bad as a fourth wave of infections rises less than 100 days after the Games are scheduled to start.
“If it seems impossible to do it anymore, we must stop resolutely,” Toshihiro Nikai, general secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in comments to the TBS broadcaster.
Cancellation is “of course” an option, Nikai said. “If the Olympics spread infection, what are the Olympics for?” he added.
Nikai, a key supporter of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is known for his frank comments, which have been avoided by many other ruling party’s lawmakers from discussing the hot button issue of a possible cancellation.
The largest sporting event in the world has already been delayed by a year and is taking place without an international audience.
Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections, with the number tending to be higher in Tokyo after the state of emergency ends and Osaka suffering a record number of cases.
The government is pushing ahead with preparations that include social distancing measures and other restrictions on the games, which are slated to begin on July 23, with a reduced torch relay underway.
“We are going to hold (the games) in a way that is feasible,” said Taro Kono, a popular minister responsible for Japan’s vaccination campaign, on a separate television program, according to Kyodo News. “It can be without a spectator,” he added.
According to surveys, there is little support in Japan for hosting the Games during a global pandemic. “Canceling Olympics” was popular in Japan on Thursday with more than 35,000 tweets from users on Twitter.
“When that person says it, the Olympic Games cancellation looks like a reality,” @marumaru_clm tweeted, referring to Nikai.
The Olympic organizers, the Japanese National Olympic Committee and the Tokyo government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Legislative comments come when health professionals sound the alarm about the spread of infections and stresses burdening the medical system.
Japan’s top medical advisor, Shigeru Omi, admitted that the pandemic had entered a fourth wave fueled by mutant tribes. Hiroshi Nishiura, a professor at Kyoto University, urged in a magazine comment that the Olympics be postponed.
Akira Koike, an opposition lawmaker for the Communist Party of Japan, responded to Nikai’s comments on Twitter that holding the event was already “impossible” and that a decision to cancel should be made “quickly”.
A cancellation or postponement of the Games would likely not hurt Japan’s economy very much, but it would have a greater impact on Tokyo’s service sector, a senior International Monetary Fund official said Wednesday.