A man in a protective mask stands behind the Olympic symbols of the five intertwined rings in the picture near the National Stadium in Tokyo.
James Matsumoto, SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
A senior official of Japan’s ruling party said canceling this year’s Tokyo Olympics remains an option if the coronavirus crisis becomes dire, as a fourth wave of infections rises less than 100 days after the Games start.
“If it seems impossible to do more, then we must stop resolutely,” Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in a comment for the TBS broadcaster.
Cancellation is an “of course” option, Nikai said. “If the Olympics were to spread the infection, then what are the Olympics for?” he added.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s key mover, party heavyweight Nikai, is known for his candid comments, which come when many other ruling party lawmakers avoided discussing the hot button of possible cancellation.
The world’s biggest sporting event has already been postponed for a year and is being held without international spectators.
Japan is battling growing coronavirus infections, with numbers trending higher in Tokyo after the government ended the state of emergency and Osaka suffered a record number of cases.
The government is continuing preparations that include social distancing measures and other restrictions for the Games, which are set to begin on July 23, while the torch relay is being reduced.
“We will hold (the Games) in a way that is feasible,” Taro Kono, a popular minister in charge of Japanese vaccination action, said in a separate TV program, according to Kyodo News. “It can be without a spectator,” he added.
Polls indicate little support from Japan in holding the Games during the global pandemic. “Cancellation of the Olympics” was on Twitter on Thursday in Japan with more than 35,000 tweets of users.
“If this person says that, the cancellation of the Olympics seems like a reality,” @marumaru_clm tweeted referring to Nikai.
Olympic organizers, the Japan National Olympic Committee and the Tokyo government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Legislators’ comments come as health experts raise the alarm over the spread of the infection and the strain it poses to the medical system.
Japan’s chief medical adviser Shigeru Omi acknowledged that the pandemic had entered a fourth wave, led by mutants, and Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura urged in a magazine comment to postpone the Olympics.
Akira Koike, an opposition MP from the Japanese Communist Party, reacted to Nikai’s comments on Twitter, saying that holding the event was already “impossible” and that the decision to cancel should be made “quickly”.
Canceling or postponing the Games would probably not harm the Japanese economy, but it would have a greater impact on the service sector in Tokyo, a senior International Monetary Fund official said on Wednesday.