The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics is back under threat after a senior official admitted Japan’s coronavirus fourth wave could force the Games to be cancelled completely.
There are now just 99 days until the competition is scheduled to begin, but there are fears it may have to be scrapped with COVID cases once again rising in Japan.
On Wednesday, Japan’s second-largest city of Osaka recorded over 1,100 new cases – its highest since January, while the country as a whole had over 4,000 positive tests.
Speaking about the Games after Government officials confirmed a fourth wave, Secretary General of the ruling LDP party Toshihiro Nikai admitted that there is still a chance Tokyo 2020 will be cancelled entirely.
“If it seems impossible to go on with the games, they must be definitely canceled,” Nikai said on TBS TV in Japan. “If there is a surge in infections because of the Olympics, there will be no meaning to having the Olympics.”
Asked if cancellation was still an option, Nikai said: “Of course,” before going on to add: “It is important for Japan to have a successful Olympics. It is a big opportunity. I want to make it a success. We will have many issues to resolve and prepare, and it is important to take care of them one by one.”
Japan has attributed 9,500 death to COVID-19 since the outbreak at the beginning of 2020, good by world standards but poor by results in Asia.
Taro Kono, the government minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, said even if the Olympics go on, there may be no fans of any kind in the venues.
He confirmed that it is likely that the Olympics will have to held in empty venues, particularly as cases surge.
That means only television cameras and still cameras will be around to record the action, joined by some reporters, judges and match officials.
The delayed 2020 Olympics are to open in just over three months on July 23, while the Paralympics open on August 24.
Fans from abroad have already been banned, but now even Japanese spectators could be kept away as virus cases surge across the country.
“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.”
Kono did not suggest the Olympics would not go ahead, but he said they could be held under only ‘certain conditions.
“The way these Olympics will be held will be very different from past ones,” he said.
Tokyo organisers have said they expect to announce a decision this month on the number of fans allowed into each venue.
Organisers had expected to receive about £580 million from ticket sales, their third-largest source of income.
Any shortfall will have to be made up by Japanese government entities, which are already footing most of the bills.
The official cost for the Olympics is £11.1 billion, but several government audits have suggested it might be twice that much.