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Olympics-Amid opposition, Japan PM says has "never put Olympics first"

CoronavirusMay 10, 2021 10:06AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The giant Olympic rings are seen over the sea, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon 2/2

By Leika Kihara and Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday that he has never "put the Olympics first", as an opinion poll showed nearly 60% of people in Japan want the Games cancelled with fewer than eleven weeks left before they are due to open.

Japan has extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas until the end of May and is struggling to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, raising more questions about whether the Games should go ahead. Its vaccination rate is also the lowest among wealthy nations.

International Olympic officials, Tokyo planners and Suga himself have insisted the Games will go on in "a safe and secure" way. Foreign spectators will not be allowed and planners issued an elaborate set of rules last month aimed at preventing coronavirus infections.

But such arrangements have not eased public worries over the Games that were postponed last year due to the coronavirus.

A opinion survey conducted on May 7-9 by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily showed 59% of respondents wanted the Games cancelled as opposed to 39% who said they should be held. "Postponement" was not offered as an option.

Another poll conducted at the weekend by TBS News found 65% wanted the Games cancelled or postponed again. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition to cancel the Games since it was launched about five days ago.

Opposition members of parliament grilled Suga for hours about holding the Games under these circumstances.

In apparent acknowledgment of the public concern about holding the Games no matter what, Suga, when asked if the Games would go ahead even if infections spiked, replied: "I've never put Olympics first".

"My priority has been to protect the lives and health of the Japanese population. We must first prevent the spread of the virus," he said.

DECLINING SUPPORT

Voter support for Suga's government is now at its lowest level since he took office last year, with a majority of the public unhappy with his handling of the pandemic, a poll showed.

A tweet by one of his advisers downplaying the pandemic and laughing off calls for the Games to be cancelled has also drawn public ire.

Suga has said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the final say on the Games and the government's role was to take steps so they can be held safely. Several test events with foreign athletes have been successfully held, most recently on Sunday.

A visit by IOC head Thomas Bach scheduled for May 17-18 has been cancelled "in the light of the extension of the state of emergency last week and various circumstances we are facing," Tokyo 2020 organisers said in a statement.

"We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Japan and other relevant factors and will re-arrange his visit to Japan as soon as possible."

Media said the visit would likely take place in June, with one outlet saying that lifting the state of emergency would be a prerequisite.

An official in Okayama prefecture said they were considering keeping the Olympic torch relay off public roads when it passes through next week. Though other prefectures have taken similar steps, they were under states of emergency or other restrictions at the time.

Top Olympic official John Coates said on Saturday that while public sentiment in Japan about the Games "was a concern" he could foresee no scenario under which the sporting extravaganza would not go ahead.

On Sunday, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka said that even though she had waited her whole life to take part in the Olympics, the risk of holding the Tokyo Games should be carefully discussed.

The Games are set to open on July 23 and run until Aug. 8.

Olympics-Amid opposition, Japan PM says has "never put Olympics first"
 

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Comments (4)
biden dennis
biden dennis May 10, 2021 3:06AM ET
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from ww2 to now, the japanese still the same - only cause damages. same goes for their plan to dispose radiation contaminated water into pacific ocean.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 10, 2021 1:48AM ET
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Irresponsible Japanese leaders try to cover their a.. by using excuses that make them look good rather than act with common sense. This is not a time to push for activities that are in contrast to public safety. The Japanese leaders' desire to showcase Japan during a pandemic is another example of Japan's reckless disregard for others, in a string of offenses against humanity, like they did with so many other infractions including forbidding a cruise ship with infected travelers from docking in Feb 2020 which effectively prevented the ship's occupants from segregating appropriately to reduce infections.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 10, 2021 1:48AM ET
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The Japanese Fu. ku. Shi.ma Olympic opening ceremony even takes place in an ir.rad.iated open area further endangering the health of the athletes while all fully sanctioned by a bri.b’ed Olympic Committee.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 10, 2021 1:48AM ET
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Also, Japan is planning to fly the same flag that Japan used during inv.ading its peaceful neighbors in the second world wa.r where Japan committed incredible atro.cities by unleashing its military on defense.less women and elders all across Asia for weeks on end. What a severe off.ense to fly that same flag during the opening ceremonies against the Asian nations Japan is supposed to host. All fully sanctioned by a bri.b’ed Olympic Committee -- The athletes are also planned by Japan to be provided with food grown in the destroyed Fu.kush.ima reac.tor, all examples of how Japan disr.espe.cts those in their care. Even a recent decision by Japan to release Fu.kus.hima polluted waters into your and my ocean is related to the Olympic plans. Don't reward Japan's rec.kless behavior with your hard-earned after-tax tourist dollars!
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 10, 2021 1:48AM ET
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If future visitors to Japan don't have the brains to educate themselves about the history of infractions and the reality of what's happening then visitors should stay home and under their covers to let the pandemic and history wash over them, out of harm's way. Why insert yourself into unclean waters, irrad.iated earth and surrounding energies full of unre.pented history. You didn't know that Japan has been rewriting its history books about the ev.ils it com.mitted in Asia, did you? You didn't know that Germany's chancellor Merkel told the Japanese leadership during a visit to Japan to look deep into their soul and hearts to look for solutions to denying their historic actions against humanity. So, look for the truth or stay put before you hurt yourself.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 10, 2021 1:47AM ET
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Irresponsible Japanese leaders try to cover their a.. by using excuses that make them look good rather than act with common sense. THIS IS NOT A TIME TO PUSH for activities that are in contrast to public safety. The Japanese leaders' desire to showcase Japan during a pandemic is another example of Japan's reckless disregard for others, in a string of offenses against humanity, like they did with so many other infractions including forbidding a cruise ship with infected travelers from docking in Feb 2020 which effectively prevented the ship's occupants from segregating appropriately to reduce infections. The Japanese Fukushima Olympic opening ceremony even takes place in an irradiated open area. The athletes are also planned to be provided with food grown in Fukushima, all examples of how Japan disrespects those in their care. Even a recent decision by Japan to release Fukushima polluted waters into the ocean is related to the Olympic plans. Don't support Japan with your tourist dollars
jack hong
jack hong May 09, 2021 11:49PM ET
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a few 100 people jumping, running and kicking & throwing stuff? what's in it for me? couldn't care less.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo May 09, 2021 11:49PM ET
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your Chinese ancestors were vio.lated by the inv.ading Japanese forces in the second world w.ar. You should care bigg time. Wake up to reality, man. The future is happening and your input counts
 
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