Olympics chief says Games will proceed after Covid official voices concerns

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games organising committee, said ‘we cannot postpone again’ due to coronavirus. 

The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto, has said the Games will go ahead as planned, soon after the Japan’s most senior medical adviser said holding the event under current coronavirus conditions was “not normal”.

“We cannot postpone again,” Hashimoto said an interview published on Thursday in the Nikkan Sports newspaper.

Shigeru Omi, head of a panel of experts that has been advising the Japanese government on its Covid-19 response since the start of the pandemic, issued his strongest warning yet of the potential risks of holding the Games.

“It’s not normal to have the Olympics in a situation like this,” Omi told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, adding that organisers should explain to a sceptical public why it was pushing ahead with preparations.

Most Japanese people do not want Tokyo 2020 to be held this summer, according to recent opinion polls. Medical journals have questioned the wisdom of allowing 90,000 athletes, media, sponsors, officials and support staff to enter the country in July, while medical unions say the Games will place additional pressure on health services.

The public broadcaster NHK reported that about 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help during the Games have quit, but organisers said the lower numbers would not be “particularly problematic” since the decision had already been taken to ban spectators from overseas.

“There’s no mistake that concerns over the coronavirus could have been a factor,” as well as scheduling conflicts due to last year’s postponement, the Nikkei business paper quoted Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto as saying.

Omi, a former World Health Organization regional director, did not call for cancellation or postponement. But he told MPs: “If we are going to hold the Games under these circumstances … then I think it’s the Olympic organisers’ responsibility to downsize the scale of the event and strengthen coronavirus control measures as much as possible.

“It is only when there is a clear reason to host the Games that the public will get on board … it’s very important for those involved in the Olympics to clarify their vision and the reason for hosting the Games.”

Tokyo 2020 officials have already cut the number of non-athlete participants by more than half of to just under 80,000, adding that further reductions could be made depending on the state of infections in Japan. They are expected to decide on whether to allow Japanese sports fans to attend Olympic events later this month.

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