Despite objections from government scientists and prominent businessmen, Japan is planning to move ahead with the postponed 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo next month. In an interview with the Japanese press, the president of the 2020 Games, Seiko Hashimoto, declared that the games would move ahead as planned, with the Japanese government taking certain precautions to prevent an outbreak of mutant COVID.
"We cannot postpone again," Hashimoto told the Nikkan Sports newspaper via Reuters.
Hashimoto, who competed in seven summer and winter Olympics as a cyclist and skater, also told the BBC that while Japanese were understandably worried, they should be reassured that a “bubble situation” was being carefully constructed.
"I believe that the possibility of these Games going on is 100% that we will do this," she added. "One thing the organising committee commits and promises to all the athletes out there is that we will defend and protect their health."
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is betting it all on pulling off the Games as he plans a critical snap election after the Games are over.
Meanwhile, Shigeru Omi, the head of a panel of government experts that has been advising Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, issued his strongest warning yet about 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 organizers of the Games should have an explanation for a skeptical public.
Public opinion polls show most Japanese people do not want Tokyo 2020 to be held this year. Medical journals have questioned the wisdom of allowing 90K athletes, media, sponsors, officials and support staff to enter the country in July. Health officials worry this infusion of foreigners will place additional strain on Japan's health-care system at a particularly vulnerable time.
10K of the 80K volunteers who initially signed up to help with the Games have quit, according to Japanese Broadcaster NHK. But organizers say they won't need as many volunteers as they once suspected
Japan's vaccine rollout has picked up over the last week, but it's still way behind the US and Europe in terms of percentage of adults who have received at least one dose.
Already postponed from last year at the cost of $3.5 billion, a stripped-down Olympics with no foreign spectators allowed is slated to begin July 23.
Most of the capital city's city council, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, are in agreement that the Games should be cancelled.
But just last week, the Japanese government approved extending a state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures that's slated to end roughly one month before the Games begin.