Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday that the postponed Tokyo Olympics should be held despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“I believe we have to hold the Games at any cost,” Hashimoto told a news conference.
“All the people involved with the Games are working together to prepare, while the athletes are also stepping up efforts towards next year,” despite difficult circumstances created by the pandemic, the minister said.
“I would like to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus so that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could declare as early as possible that the Olympics can be held with certainty,” she said.
Japanese officials have been inconsistent in their outlining of the pros and cons of holding the postponed Olympic next year.
In late July, Tokyo Olympic organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori told broadcaster NHK that the Games could only take place next year if the coronavirus situation has improved considerably.
“We can’t do it if the current situation continues,” Mori said. However, organizing committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said in an interview with the Financial Times in early August that the Games will be held “with corona.”
“The important thing is to deliver an Olympics for people who must live with Covid-19,” Muto told the paper. A poll conducted in July by Kyodo News showed that only 23.9 per cent of Japanese surveyed would like to see the Olympics go ahead in summer 2021.
The Olympic Games are to start on July 23 next year, while the postponed Paralympic Games are scheduled to take place from August 24 to September 5, 2021.
In late March, the IOC and the Japanese government agreed to delay the Tokyo Games by one year due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
The Olympics had originally been scheduled to be held between July 24 and August 24, and the Paralympics from August 25 to September 6.
Japan has been struggling to deal with a resurgence of the coronavirus as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been criticized for launching a travel promotion campaign amid the pandemic to reboot the tourism industry and local economies.