TOKYO (JAPAN) – Despite a growing opposition against hosting the Olympics, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday vowed to go ahead with preparations to hold the event this summer.
Suga remarks comes after Taro Kono, his administrative and reform minister, expressed doubts regarding the future of Tokyo games last week. He was the first cabinet minister to say the Games may not go ahead as planned.
Kono’s comments added fuel to the fire after recent media polls showed close to 80% of Japanese believe the Olympics, already postponed by a year because of the pandemic, should be delayed again or cancelled entirely.
“We will press ahead with preparations, with determination of building watertight anti-infection measures and holding an event that can bring hope and courage to the world,” Suga said in a policy speech at the start of a regular parliament session.
Suga’s support ratings have tumbled as critics have described the government’s handling of the pandemic as too slow and inconsistent.
Monday’s comments echo a pledge by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach that the Tokyo Olympics will be a “light at the end of the tunnel” in the global pandemic fight. The IOC expects just 6,000 athletes at the opening ceremony, down from an initial figure of about 11,000 from 200 nations.
It plans to scale back the ceremony because athletes will not be allowed to arrive at the Olympic Village more than five days before they compete and must depart within two days of completion of their events.
“We believe it is necessary to reconsider the number of participants at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and how they will enter the stadium,” the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said in an email.