Japan 'cornered' on Tokyo Olympics, says national committee member
Public opposition to holding the Olympics this summer remains high, but organisers insist they will go ahead safely under strict Covid-19 countermeasures and with most athletes and officials vaccinated.
In an opinion article for Kyodo News, Japan Olympic Committee member Kaori Yamaguchi, who won judo bronze in Seoul in 1988, described "anxiety and distrust" between the public and the government over the Games.
"What will these Olympics be for and for whom? The Games have already lost meaning and are being held just for the sake of them," she wrote.
"We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not," added Yamaguchi, who has previously voiced unease over the Games and called for their postponement last year.
Yamaguchi also hit out at the International Olympic Committee, which has repeatedly asserted that the mega-event will go ahead despite the pandemic.
"The IOC also seems to think that public opinion in Japan is not important," she said, citing shock over comments by vice-president John Coates.
When asked in May if the Games could be held even during a virus state of emergency, Coates had said "the answer is absolutely yes".
The country's slow-moving vaccine rollout has started to pick up in recent days, with around three percent of the population fully vaccinated so far.
The government's top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, told lawmakers on Friday that the Games should not go ahead if the emergency measures are extended past their current end-date of June 20.
"We must absolutely avoid hosting the Olympics under a state of emergency," he said, according to broadcaster TBS, urging the government to strengthen restrictions so the emergency declarations can end before the Games.
Cancelling the Games would cost Japan around 1.8 trillion yen ($16.6 billion), researchers have warned.
A Financial Times report on Friday said "big Japanese sponsors" were privately calling for another delay of several months, to allow more spectators to attend.
Organisers have ruled out a further postponement of the 2020 Games, which were pushed back a year as Covid-19 spread around the world.
But citing anonymous sources, the British newspaper said some sponsors had recently pitched the idea to organisers, although one senior executive expressed doubts about the influence the proposal would have.
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto did not respond to a question on the report at a Friday press conference.
Overseas fans are already barred from the Games, and organisers will decide later this month how many local fans will be permitted, if any.