Japan to continue preparing for Olympics as planned despite concerns over COVID-19 pandemic
Japan's top government spokesperson said Tuesday that Japan will continue as planned with preparations to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled this summer.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the remarks at a press briefing following the Group of Seven leaders holding a video conference to discuss their coordinated action to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
During the conference, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the leaders that Japan intends to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in their "complete" form.
Suga said that none of the G7 leaders opposed Japan's intention to host the Games as scheduled and there was no mention of the Games being postponed.
Japan will continue with its ongoing preparations for Tokyo to host the Games, due to start on July 24, as planned and in coordination with the International Olympic Committee, Tokyo's organizing committee and the metropolitan government, said Suga.
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto on Tuesday, meanwhile, said that Abe asserting that Japan intends to host the Games in their "complete" form meant that the Games will go ahead as scheduled, with spectators in attendance despite mounting concerns about the global spread of the coronavirus.
At a press conference on the matter, Hashimoto said that Abe conveying that Japan intends to hold a "complete" Olympics was a "correct" interpretation of his sentiments conveyed to the G7 leaders and "that's what we are aiming for."
"We will do our utmost to prepare to hold the Olympics as scheduled so that the International Olympic Committee will be convinced we are capable of hosting the games," Hashimoto said.
The latest official remarks on the hosting of one of the world's largest and most popular sporting events come after around 70 percent of Japanese people said they do not think the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer will be held due to concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, according to survey released Monday.
The poll, conducted from Saturday to Monday by phone by Kyodo News, showed that 69.9 percent of people do not expect Tokyo 2020 to be held as planned.
There is also skepticism within the organizing committee itself, with Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee's executive board, suggesting last week at a board meeting that the quadrennial Games be delayed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We need to deal accordingly with the crisis based on reality. Time is running out," Takahashi, a former senior managing director at Japan's leading advertising agency, Dentsu Inc., was quoted as telling local media.
The organizing committee rebuked Takahashi's remarks, however, saying they only represented his personal opinion.
An aide to Abe has reportedly also expressed his reservations, saying the World Health Organization upgrading the coronavirus from an epidemic to a global pandemic could create a sense that the world is in no position to hold the Olympics.
Kozo Tashima, president of the Japan Football Association and also a Japanese Olympic Committee vice president, tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday.