Tokyo marked 100 days to go until the postponed Olympics on Wednesday amid lingering uncertainty over whether the Games can be staged safely amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Olympic host city has been under a month-long semi-state of emergency over the pandemic since Monday amid a growing number of new infections.
“During this period, we will put our efforts to prevent the spread of infections and beat the coronavirus, and would like to be able to hold the Games with everyone,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at an event marking the occasion.
Tokyo confirmed 510 new daily infections on Tuesday, exceeding 500 cases for the first time in three days, while the western prefecture of Osaka reported a record 1,099 cases amid the rapid spread of new variants of the virus.
Speaking at a lower house committee, Shigeru Omi, who chairs the government’s coronavirus advisory panel, confirmed “the fourth wave” of coronavirus infections.
The roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines has been extremely slow since its start in mid-February. Only 0.4 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Despite the pandemic, the Olympics “certainly will happen,” John Coates, Tokyo 2020 coordination commission chair said in a video message.
“They will commence the Games on the 23rd of July,” Coates said.
He called the Tokyo Games “the best-prepared ever Games.”
In March 2020, the pandemic forced the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers to delay the Games by one year in an unprecedented move.
“I have no hesitation in saying that the Games will take place and they’ll be the safest Games possible,” Coates said.
However, 72 per cent of people in Japan want the Tokyo Games cancelled or rescheduled due to the ongoing pandemic, a survey conducted by Kyodo News showed on Monday.
The survey indicated that 39.2 per cent of those polled favoured the cancellation of the Games, while 32.8 per cent said the event should be postponed once again.
Only around a quarter of those polled, 24 per cent, supported the Olympics and Paralympics going ahead this year.
The president of World Athletics, Seb Coe, has warned that a generation of athletes could miss out on going to the Olympics if the Tokyo Games are cancelled or postponed for a second time.
Coe said the organization of this year’s Tokyo Olympics is taking place in “incredibly challenging times”, but added there were several Covid-19 protocols in place and the organizers were working hard to reassure the Japanese locals.
“There would not be a remote possibility of a postponement again,” Coe told British broadcaster the BBC on Wednesday.
“That would be a cancellation and the athletes who we are working absolutely flat out from around the world to provide this competition would have probably, for a generation of them, missed the opportunity to go to a Games.”
He added it was going to be a “different type of Games” for the athletes, with sightseeing not allowed to happen this year.
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