WORLD / ASIA-PACIFIC
Virus ‘could force’ Olympics cancelation
Governor says it encourages Japan to contain COVID-19 by all means
Published: Apr 15, 2021 06:48 PM
A senior Japanese politician said cancelling the Tokyo Olympics over the coronavirus remains a possibility on Thursday, as a surge in cases renews concerns about the Games with less than 100 days to go.

Toshihiro Nikai, the ­ruling Liberal Democratic Party's ­secretary-general, said the Olympics must be canceled "without ­hesitation" if the virus situation is too severe.

A year after their historic postponement, the 2020 Olympics remain beset by pandemic problems, with parts of the torch relay forced behind closed doors and public support consistently low.

Organisers and Olympic officials insist the Games will go ahead safely, but Nikai said Thursday that all options were on the table.

"We need to make a decision depending on the situation at the time," he told the private TBS television network.

"We need to cancel it without hesitation if they're no longer possible," added Nikai, who is the LDP's secretary-general.

Asked if he considered cancelation an option, Nikai said, "Yes of course."

"If infection spreads because of the Olympics, I don't know what the Olympics is for."

He added however that he sees the Games as an "opportunity," and it was "important for Japan to foster excitement with support from the public."

"We definitely want to make a success. In order to do so, there are various issues to solve. It's important to solve them one by one."

The comments were quickly dismissed by an unnamed LDP official who told the Jiji news agency that "the Games will not be canceled."

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she had been told that the comment meant it is an option. "I take it as a message of strong encouragement that we contain the coronavirus by all means."

Nikai's remarks come with fresh worries in Japan about what experts have called a fourth wave of infections.

Record numbers of cases have been reported in Osaka in recent days, and the government has been forced to authorize new restrictions just weeks after lifting a virus state of emergency.

The surge has already forced the Olympic torch relay off public roads in Osaka, and a city in western Japan also announced Wednesday that it would cancel the public event.

Compounding the problem is the comparatively slow rollout of the vaccine in Japan, which has so far only approved the Pfizer/BioNTech version.

Around 1.1 million people in the country of 126 million have received a first dose of vaccine, with the rollout only expanding to the elderly this week.

Despite the problems, Olympic organizers insist the Games can be held safely and have released virus rulebooks to allay public fears. 
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