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Olympics: 'We cannot postpone again,' Tokyo 2020 boss says of COVID gloom

OLYMPICS By Reuters | June 4th 2021
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is displayed, in Tokyo

The head of Japan's Olympics organising committee ruled out on Thursday another suspension of the Games, despite deep disquiet at the prospect of thousands of athletes and officials arriving during a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.

Already postponed from last year at the cost of an extra $3.5 billion, a scaled-down version of the Games, with no foreign spectators, is set to start on July 23.

But with a slow vaccine rollout, Tokyo and nine other regions under a state of emergency, and rising numbers of severe coronavirus cases, most Japanese oppose hosting the Olympics.

Most of the capital's city council, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, agree, the Tokyo Shimbun paper reported on Thursday.

Illustrating the public anxiety, residents in one training venue, Ota City, were furious over a decision to give preferential vaccinations to staff attending to visiting Australian softball players, media also said.

Malkia Olympic team that is preparing to travel Tokyo for for a photo during a team Kenya Women's Stakeholders Engagement Workshop at Safari Park hotel.03/06/2021 [ Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

However, organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto countered the gloom, telling the Nikkan Sports newspaper: "We cannot postpone again."

Hashimoto, who competed in seven summer and winter Olympics as a cyclist and skater, also told the BBC that while Japanese were understandably worried, they should be reassured that a "bubble situation" was being carefully constructed.

"I believe that the possibility of these Games going on is 100% that we will do this," she added. "One thing the organising committee commits and promises to all the athletes out there is that we will defend and protect their health."

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also appeared confident of pulling off a successful Olympics and Paralympics as he plans a snap vote afterwards, the Asahi newspaper said.


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