Head of Tokyo Olympics committee refuses to rule out cancelling games

Covid-19 cases are rising sharply in Tokyo

The head of the organising committee for the Tokyo Olympics has refused to rule out a complete cancellation of the event, which is due to start in just three days' time.

On Monday, authorities organising the games said that 71 cases of Covid-19 had been linked to the event, which has faced numerous delays and cost overruns, problems exacerbated by the pandemic.

Thirty-one of the cases were visitors from abroad and the total cases announced were tallied up to July 2. People testing positive at the games are required to isolate for 14 days.

Speaking at a press conference, the head of the organising committee Toshiro Muto said that the number of infections was being closely watched.

“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” he said, after a journalist asked if the event could be cancelled.

While the organisers are taking unprecedented measures to ensure the games go ahead safely — and the case numbers so far are tiny compared with the number of people already on site, Tokyo has seen a spike in Covid cases.

About 11,000 athletes will be participating in the games.

But the rise in cases in Tokyo has led the government to declare an emergency in the city. The seven-day average for cases almost doubled this week, from 830 to 1,387.

Compounding the risk of a major outbreak, athletes do not have to have received a vaccination before attending, although Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee’s president, has said that 85 per cent of athletes will have been jabbed and almost everyone working at the event will be vaccinated.

A survey of Japanese public opinion carried out by broadcaster JNN on July 3-4 found 35 per cent of respondents were in favour of a spectator-less Olympics, while 26 per cent wanted to allow some fans, and 34 per cent wanted to cancel the games or postpone them again.

Updated: July 20th 2021, 1:03 PM