The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, claimed that a last-minute cancellation was not off the table for the Olympic Games this year, despite the fact that the opening ceremony is scheduled to take place this Friday.
A combination of athletes testing positive for Covid-19 and major Olympic sponsors pulling out of the opening ceremony is what has so many experts worried.
“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” Muto explained.
“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
Covid-19 cases are currently on the rise in Tokyo. The Games are set to happen with no spectators, and Japan decided this month that participants will be competing in empty venues to minimize health risks.
So far there have been 67 cases of Covid-19 in Japan among the individuals accredited for the Games since the beginning of July, when a majority of the athletes started arriving. Japan’s vaccination program overall has been delayed, and the city of Tokyo is currently experiencing a surge of new cases with 1,387 being reported on Tuesday.
Seiko Hashimoto, who sits alongside Muto as organizing committee President, said that “safety measures introduced to reassure the Japanese public had not necessarily done so, I’m aware that popular support for the Games had dropped.”
“I really want to apologize from my heart for the accumulation of frustrations and concerns that the public has been feeling towards the Olympics.”
Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, said that the Olympics bubble system was “already kind of broken. My biggest concern is, of course, there will be a cluster of infections in the (athletes’) village or some of the accommodation and interaction with local people,” he added.
“Members of the public are concerned because they feel that the current situation appears to show that the playbooks that were meant to guarantee security are not providing a sense of safety.”
55% of the Japanese population claimed that they were opposed to the Games and wanted them to be cancelled, according to a poll performed by a local media outlet.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.