A woman walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
A woman walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

A woman walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) A woman walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Head of Tokyo Olympics again says games will not be cancelled

On Thursday, minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, Taro Kono, said even if the Olympics go on, there may be no fans of any kind in venues

The head of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday was again forced to assure the world that the postponed games will open in just over three months and not be cancelled despite surging COVID-19 cases in Japan.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto was asked at a news conference if there were any conditions under which the Olympics would be cancelled.

The question comes as the general secretary of ruling LDP political party, Toshihiro Nikai, raised the possibility the day before.

“There are a variety of concerns but as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee we are not thinking about cancelling the games,” Hashimoto said.

Nikai, the No. 2 person in the LDP party, was asked on Thursday in an interview if cancellation was still an option.

“Of course,” he replied, adding that if the Tokyo Games caused a surge in infections “there would be no meaning to having the Olympics.”

Nikai tried to backtrack later, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued a statement Thursday saying there is “no change to the government position to do everything to achieve safe and secure Olympics.”

Hashimoto acknowledged Nikai’s concern and suggested it was probably shared by the Japanese public. Polls show as many as 80% in Japan oppose holding the Olympics during the pandemic.

“The fact that he (Nikai) is concerned is a point that we need to take seriously as Tokyo 2020,” she said. “His comment has reminded us of how tedious it was for us to feel confident or be fully prepared for delivering the games.”

COVID-19 cases have been rising across Japan. Despite this, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers are pressing on. The IOC, which relies on selling broadcast rights for 73% of its income, has seen its cash flow stalled by the postponement. Japan has already invested at least $15 billion to organize the Olympics, and national audits suggest it might be twice that much. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

In an editorial this week, the British Medical Journal questioned Japan and the IOC going ahead with the Olympics. Organizers have said the Olympics will be “safe and secure,” which the editorial challenged.

“While the determination is encouraging, there has been a lack of transparency about the benefits and risk, and international mass gathering events such as Tokyo 2020 are still neither safe nor secure,” the editorial said.

On Thursday, the government minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, Taro Kono, said even if the Olympics go on, there may be no fans of any kind in the venues. He said it’s likely that the Olympics will have to be held in empty venues, particularly as cases surge across the country.

Fans from abroad have already been barred.

Hashimoto, who had said previously that a decision on venues would come in April, seemed to push back that deadline. She was not asked about Kono’s suggestion and did not raise the issue or challenge it.

“Within April I would like to set the basis direction,” she said. “The final judgement time — this as well we need to monitor the situation of the pandemic and we need to remain flexible for that.”

Organizers had hoped to generate $800 million from ticket sales. Much of that revenue will be lost and the Japanese government will have to cover the shortfall.

No fans of any kind might simplify matters. Organizers can then focus solely on 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes entering Japan, and keeping in a bubble in the Athletes Villages, the training sites, and at the competition venues. Tens of thousands of judges, officials, media and broadcasters will also have to enter Japan.

The vaccine rollout in Japan has been slow with less than 1% having had the shot. The numbers will be better in three months, but will contrast sharply with non-Japanese entering the country. A large percentage of those are expected to be vaccinated, including athletes.

Hashimoto said Japanese athletes were not a “priority” for vaccination. Putting athletes at the head of the line has been largely opposed in Japan.

The IOC has said vaccination is not a requirement to participate in the Olympics. On the other hand, IOC President Thomas Bach has left no doubt he wants as many athletes vaccinated as possible.

Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters Friday that the government is considering conducting daily virus tests on athletes during the games as a way to guarantee safety. Previous plans had called for virus tests every four days.

Marukawa also said the government was not talking about prioritizing athletes for vaccination.

On Thursday, Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area of Osaka recorded 1,208 new cases. It was the third straight day that new cases surpassed 1,000. Tokyo hit 729, its highest total in more than two months.

Japan has attributed 9,500 death to COVID-19, good by world standards but poor by results in Asia.

The national government on Friday was to add four more prefectures to those already under a “quasi-state of emergency.” This brings the total to 10 and now includes Tokyo neighbours Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.

Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A screenshot of the pathway’s construction. (City of Kelowna)
Okanagan Rail Trail to be extended to downtown Kelowna waterfront

Construction of the pathway is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 10

Jason Townsend wearing his Kelowna Hells Angels prospect patches. (Jason Townsend/Facebook)
Crown stays domestic assault charges against Kelowna Hells Angels prospect

Jason Townsend, 43, was charged in August 2020 with assault and assault by choking

RCMP did not commit offense in arrest which seriously injured Lake Country man, finds IIO. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
Vernon police didn’t use excessive force in domestic takedown: Watchdog

‘One stepped on him and one had his knee in his neck,’ woman told IIO

Central Okanagan recorded 174 cases throughout the week of April 25 to May 1. (BCCDC/Contributed)
Weekly COVID-19 numbers continue to decrease in Central Okanagan

The Central Okanagan had 174 cases from April 25 to May 1

A fifth wheel fire came dangerously close to a Lake Country home Wednesday afternoon. (Lake Country Fire Department photo)
RCMP, neighbours save Lake Country house from fire

Fifth wheel up in flames next to home

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A new video from South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), released May 6 in collaboration with the Okanagan Chambers COVID Response Coalition (#OKWeGotThis), features members of communities across the Okanagan including Oliver, Penticton, Peachland, Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Kamloops. (South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services/Screenshot)
VIDEO: South Okanagan community group releases video addressing racism in the Okanagan

Video begins by using real audio from racist incidents in the Okanagan

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The monthly totals from Jan.1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 show COVID-19 cases for most Local Health Areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap, other than Vernon’s with the largest population, staying well below 400. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
16 months in, COVID cases in North Okanagan-Shuswap areas stay under 1,000

Vernon, with the largest population, hovers under 900 cases since January 2020

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,000 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Sullivan Mack gets a boost into West Kelowna goalie Johnny Derrick from Warriors forward Tyson Jugnauth during West Kelowna’s 5-4 B.C. Hockey League pod play win Wednesday, May 5, at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Tami Quan Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors hold on to edge Silverbacks

Warriors up three with five minutes to go, give up two late goals but end up with 5-4 BCHL win over Salmon Arm

Most Read