Senior Japanese official says canceling Olympics is an 'option'

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Cheryl Teh
·3 min read
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Tokyo's Olympic rings
The Olympic rings in Tokyo Bay. Kevin Reilly
  • According to a Kyodo News report, a senior Japanese official said cancelling the Olympics was still "an option."

  • Japan is now less than 100 days away from the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games on July 23.

  • Tokyo saw a spike in infections on Wednesday when it confirmed another 591 COVID cases.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tokyo might be less than 100 days away from the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but calling it off is still an option, said a senior Japanese official on Thursday.

Speaking in a televised interview with Kyodo News, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said: "If rising coronavirus cases means 'this is impossible', we would have to give up."

He added that cancellation was, "of course," an "option", saying: "If the Olympics were to spread infection, then what are the Olympics for?"

Nikai's comments came in the wake of a troubling rise in COVID cases in the Tokyo area on Wednesday.

According to Kyodo News, Tokyo confirmed 591 COVID cases, the highest number the city saw since the government lifted its second COVID state of emergency on March 21. Separately, Japan reported more than 4,300 cases yesterday, its first massive spike since January 28, as health authorities contend with more contagious variants of the virus that are spreading across the country.

The Japan Times reported that Japan's top virus expert Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, has acknowledged that the country is hitting its fourth wave of COVID infections, particularly as daily cases surge to record highs in Western Japan.

The Japan Times wrote that Nakagawa called for an "early emergency declaration" to be made, as a surge of cases is expected during the Golden Week holiday period, which begins on April 29 and ends on May 5.

The surge in virus infections has fueled further skepticism on whether the games should be held this summer, following the cancellation of the Olympic torch relay in Osaka. The Olympic flame was initially meant to pass through the prefecture on Tuesday and Wednesday, but these plans were canned to keep COVID cases low.

That might have come a day late and a dollar short, as Osaka's new COVID cases hit a record 1,130 on Wednesday, with the medical system in the city hitting breaking point - as close to 98% of hospital beds meant for seriously ill COVID patients are now occupied.

Local news network Mainichi reported that Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike vowed to keep COVID under control in the Japanese capital, to ensure that the Olympics can take place safely. Koike added that the quasi-state of emergency that Japan is currently under until May 11 will be a "crucial period" in the "battle against COVID," before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games takes place on July 23.

Calls for the Olympics to be canceled are not new, as a Kyodo report this week noted that 39.2% of over 500 people surveyed said that the Japanese government should consider canceling the Olympics and Paralympics - which have already been postponed for a year. Another 32.8% said that the games should be re-scheduled, while 24.5% thought the games should go on as planned.

Reuters reported that Nikai issued a written statement on Thursday afternoon, to clarify his position on the matter.

"I want the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to succeed," he said in the statement, adding that there will be no change to the government's policy of providing support to stage a safe and secure Tokyo Olympics.

"At the same time, to the question of whether we would host the (Games) no matter what, that is not the case. That's what I meant by my comments."

Read the original article on Insider