An Olympic Visit Illustrates COVID Tensions in Japan

IOC president's planned visit to Tokyo is likely to be canceled because of lockdown
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2021 11:18 AM CDT
Updated May 7, 2021 11:22 AM CDT
Tokyo's State of Emergency to End Weeks Before Olympics
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide, center, attends a meeting against the COVID-19 infections at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Friday.   (Yoshitaka Sugawara/Kyodo News via AP)

The International Olympic Committee president is supposed to attend a torch relay ceremony in Japan in days, though the visit is looking less and less likely because of COVID. Broadcaster NHK reported Friday that Thomas Bach's visit was likely to be canceled, reports Reuters, the latest development in growing controversy over whether the Games should be staged at all. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said the visit would be "extremely difficult" to pull off because a state of emergency covering Tokyo and the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, initially set to end Tuesday, has been extended to May 31, per the AP. It also now covers central Aichi and southern Fukuoka. "I suspect that coming to Japan in the midst of this very severe situation would also be an emotional burden" for Bach, Hashimoto said. Also:

  • A Kyoto News poll shows 72% of Japanese believe the Games should be postponed or rescheduled. As of now, they're scheduled to start July 23.
  • Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins argues it's "irrational" to push ahead, despite the $25 billion Japan has invested, when "Tokyo organizers have estimated they will need to divert about 10,000 medical workers to service the IOC's demands," which include reserving hospital rooms only for people with an Olympic credential.
  • Susumu Morita, head of Japan's medical workers' union, says he's "furious at the insistence on staging the Olympics despite the risk to patients' and nurses' health and lives," per the Guardian.
  • By the end of April, just 1.6% of people had been vaccinated in Japan, where residents are advised—but not required—to wear masks in public and stay at home to work.
(Spectators from abroad will not be allowed at the Olympics.)

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