Are the Tokyo Olympics Going to Get Canceled?

As a fourth COVID wave hits Japan, a high-ranking politician says cancellation is an option

Tokyo Olympics Logo
The Tokyo Olympics could still be canceled.
Cesar I. Martins/Creative Commons

With fewer than 100 days left to go until the postponed Summer Olympics are set to begin in Tokyo, the possibility of the Games being canceled is being raised — again.

Speaking on Japan’s TBS TV on Thursday, the No. 2 ranking member of the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party said canceling the Tokyo Olympics could be an option if Japan’s COVID-19 cases, which are at their highest mark since late January, continue to surge during what medical experts describe as a “fourth wave” of the pandemic. Japan passed 500,000 total coronavirus cases on Saturday and less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated.

“If it seems impossible to go on with the games, they must be definitely canceled,” said Toshihiro Nikai. “If there is a surge in infections because of the Olympics, there will be no meaning to having the Olympics.”

Though Nikai did say hosting the Olympics was a big opportunity for Japan and that he wants the event to be a success, he also said there are still “many issues to resolve.” Asked if outright cancellation was still an option, Nikai responded: “Of course.”

Fans from abroad have already been banned from attending the Games and Taro Kono, the government minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, said it is possible that Japanese spectators will be kept away as well and that the Olympics will have to be held in empty venues.

“I think the question is how to do the Olympics in a way that is possible in this situation,” Kono said Thursday on a television talk show. “That may mean there will probably be no spectators. The way these Olympics will be held will be very different from past ones.”

If the Games are held, it doesn’t sound as if they’ll be well-received locally as a newspaper poll this week found 70% of Japanese people don’t want the Tokyo Olympics to go ahead.

“I’m not surprised that the polling figures are like that,” British Olympic Association chair Sir Hugh Robertson told Sky News. “If you’re a country in lockdown and then somebody proposes hosting an Olympics you’re bound to think that this probably isn’t the ideal. It’s also the case that in every single country that ever hosts the Olympic Games, that the public is generally somewhere between hostile and not very keen, right up until the last moment and then it flips about.”

Originally slated to be held last summer but delayed due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics are supposed to open on July 23 with the Paralympics following on August 24.

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