© Reuters. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Preview – Tokyo, Japan – July 20, 2021 General view of the Olympic Rings in front of the National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon
From Ju-min Park and Sakura Murakami
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee chief didn’t rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Olympics on Tuesday as more athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and main sponsors abandoned plans to attend Friday’s opening ceremony.
Asked at a press conference whether the global sporting showpiece could possibly still be canceled, Toshiro Muto said he will keep an eye on the infection numbers and contact other organizers if necessary.
“We cannot predict what will happen to the number of coronavirus cases, so we will continue discussions if there is an increase in cases,” Muto said.
“We have agreed that we will re-hold five-party talks due to the coronavirus situation. At this point, coronavirus cases can rise or fall, so we will think about what to do if the situation arises.”
COVID-19 cases are increasing in Tokyo and the games postponed last year due to the pandemic will be played without spectators. Japan decided this month that attendees will compete in empty venues to minimize health risks.
There have been 67 cases of COVID-19 infection in Japan among those accredited for the Games since July 1, when many athletes and officials arrived, organizers said on Tuesday.
Japan, whose vaccination program lags that of most other developed nations, has recorded more than 840,000 cases and 15,055 deaths, and the host city of the Games, Tokyo, is seeing a new surge, with 1,387 cases recorded Tuesday.
Muto, a former top financial bureaucrat with close ties to the Japanese ruling party, is known for his careful wording while officials face a local public angry at coronavirus restrictions and concerned about a possible surge in cases caused by overseas entrants to be triggered .
The organizers, for whom the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach said canceling the event was never an option, have promised to keep the Games “safe and secure”.
However, experts see gaps in an Olympic “bubble” that mandates frequent testing and is designed to restrict participants’ movements.
Seiko Hashimoto, who sits next to Muto as president of the organizing committee, said the security measures put in place to reassure the Japanese public did not necessarily have to do so, and that she is aware that public support for the Games has been declining be.
“I sincerely want to apologize for the accumulation of frustrations and concerns the public has about the Olympics,” said Hashimoto at the same press conference.
The first major test of how to hold an Olympics amid a pandemic could well take place at the men’s soccer tournament when Japan faces a South African team that may struggle to field 11 players due to the coronavirus.
This game is scheduled to take place on Thursday, the day before an opening ceremony sponsored by top sponsor Panasonic (OTC 🙂 Corp. as well as Fujitsu Ltd and NEC Corp are left out. Toyota Motor (NYSE 🙂 Corp has https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/two-thirds-japanese-doubt-pandemic-olympics-can-be-safe-says-poll-2021-07-19 all TV shows drop ads associated with Monday’s games.
Bach, who Kyodo News Agency said will meet Japan’s Emperor Naruhito on Thursday, said Tuesday organizers never imagined the “unprecedented challenges” of bringing the global event to Tokyo and praised the “heroic efforts” of medical staff and volunteers around the world amid the pandemic.
Two members of Mexico’s Olympic baseball team tested positive for COVID-19 at the team hotel before leaving for Tokyo, the country’s baseball association said on Tuesday.
The athletes, Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis, who tested positive on July 18, have been isolated, as have any team members waiting for the results of further tests, it said.
Kenji Shibuya, former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, said the organizers’ bladder system was already “somehow broken”. [L4N2OW0F4]
“My biggest concern, of course, is that there will be an accumulation of infections in the (athletes’) village or in some of the shelters and interactions with the locals,” he added.
Organizing Committee President Hashimoto said the public was concerned “because they believe that the current situation seems to show that the playbooks, which are supposed to guarantee security, do not convey a sense of security.”
In a poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubts about the Olympic organizers’ ability to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were against hosting the Games.