The head of Japan’s Olympics organising committee ruled out on Thursday another suspension of the Games, despite deep disquiet at the prospect of thousands of athletes and officials arriving during a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
Already postponed from last year at the cost of an extra $3.5 billion, a scaled-down version of the Games, with no foreign spectators, is set to start on July 23.
But with a slow vaccine rollout, Tokyo and nine other regions under a state of emergency, and rising numbers of severe coronavirus cases, most Japanese oppose hosting the Olympics.
Most of the capital’s city council, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, agree, the Tokyo Shimbun paper reported on Thursday.
However, organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto countered the gloom, telling the Nikkan Sports newspaper: “We cannot postpone again.”
Hashimoto, who competed in seven summer and winter Olympics as a cyclist and skater, also told the BBC that while Japanese were understandably worried, they should be reassured that a “bubble situation” was being carefully constructed.
“I believe that the possibility of these Games going on is 100% that we will do this,” she added. “One thing the organising committee commits and promises to all the athletes out there is that we will defend and protect their health.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also appeared confident of pulling off a successful Olympics and Paralympics as he plans a snap vote afterwards, the Asahi newspaper said.
Authorities have not decided whether Japanese spectators will be allowed to attend Olympics events. There are fears that shouting, hugging and high-fiving could promote contagion.
In the latest upsets in the run-up to the Olympics, Kurume City pulled out of hosting Kenya’s training camp, while a player on Ghana’s Under-24 team tested positive after arriving for a friendly match.