There will be no Summer Olympics in Tokyo if athletes don’t come to Japan, said the president of the local organising committee Seiko Hashimoto as pressure mounts on the IOC to cancel the event. Hashimoto said the organising committee would comply if other organisers were to decide to cancel the games.
The official emphasised that whether the event will go ahead or not depends on the coronavirus situation – a rapidly changing factor.
What's The Situation With COVID-19 in Japan?
The country is now dealing with a fourth wave of the coronavirus, with 10 areas of Japan placed under a state of emergency. On Thursday Japan recorded more than 3,000 cases. That same day, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extended coronavirus restrictions in nine prefectures.
The situation has been exacerbated by the slow pace of the nation's immunisation campaign. According to local news agency Kyodo, 15.6 million vaccination shots have been administered in the country. If one is to assume that every person got two doses this means that less than 7 percent of Japan’s population have been vaccinated.
Concerns of Health Experts
The statement by the president of the organising committee comes 49 days before the biggest sporting event is scheduled to kick off. Health experts, including from Japan, cautioned against holding the games at a time when the world is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Naoto Ueyama, the head of the country’s doctors' union warned that should the event go ahead it could lead to the emergence of an "Olympic" strain of coronavirus.
"All of the different mutant strains of the virus which exist in different places will be concentrated and gathering here in Tokyo. We cannot deny the possibility of even a new strain of the virus potentially emerging", he told a news conference. "If such a situation were to arise, it could even mean a Tokyo Olympic strain of the virus being named in this way, which would be a huge tragedy and something which would be the target of criticism, even for 100 years", said Naoto Ueyama.
Uncertainty around the event lingers on, with organisers and sponsors making contradictory statements. Asahi Shimbun, official partner of the sports event, last week said the games should be cancelled. The public too is unhappy about the upcoming event, with polls showing that nearly 70 percent of respondents do not want the Olympics to go ahead at the time of the pandemic.
Still, Tokyo’s organising committee has insisted that the country is capable of ensuring that the event, which was postponed in 2020, will be held and will be safe. Officials from the International Olympic Committee too deem that the Games should go ahead.
The event has already been marred by the announcement that no international spectators will be allowed to attend and reports say that Japanese authorities may ban domestic spectators.
In the end, whether or not the Games will go ahead will depend on the International Olympic Committee, which has exclusive rights to the sports event and has a final say over it. If Tokyo decides to unilaterally cancel the event, reports say the losses (worth billions of dollars) would fall on the country’s organising committee .