A new poll shows that nearly 60% of Japanese want the already delayed Tokyo Games to be canceled.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday he had never “given priority to the Olympics” as a public opinion poll showed nearly 60% of Japanese want the Olympics to be canceled within three months before they start.
Japan has extended the state of emergency in Tokyo until the end of May and struggles to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, raising further questions about whether the Games should take place. Its vaccination rate is the lowest among rich countries.
International Olympic officials, Tokyo planners and Suga himself have insisted that the $ 15.4 billion event will run in a “safe and secure” manner. Overseas spectators were banned and planners last month released a detailed manual of rules to prevent coronavirus infections.
But a public opinion poll, carried out between May 7 and 9 by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun, showed that 59% wanted the Games canceled, compared with just 39% who said they should continue. There was no option to postpone the event, which has already been delayed for a year.
Another poll conducted over the weekend by TBS News found that 65% wanted the Games canceled or postponed again, with 37% voting to drop the event altogether and 28% calling for another delay.
More than 300,000 people signed a petition to cancel the Games approximately five days after their launch.
Around 100 “anti-Olympic” protesters marched around the Tokyo National Stadium on Sunday to demonstrate their opposition to the event as a test event unfolded inside.
Protesters expressed anger at Tokyo organizers and the IOC for moving the games forward even as cases of COVID-19 increased.
“I was surprised that the number of people who are against the Olympics has increased so much,” Kumiko Suto, an employee of a publishing house, told The Associated Press. “But I guess it reflects the gravity of the coronavirus situation. And yet, the Olympics are unstoppable. I’m just speechless.
When asked at a parliamentary committee meeting whether the Games would continue even if coronavirus cases continued to climb, Suga replied, “I never put the Olympics first.”
“My priority has been to protect the life and health of the Japanese people. We must first prevent the spread of the virus, ”he added.
He reiterated that the IOC had the final say on the fate of the Games and that the role of the government was to take measures so that the event could take place safely.
The TBS investigation found that Suga’s public approval rating was 40%, close to record lows seen earlier this year.
Senior Olympic official John Coates said on Saturday that while Japanese sentiment about the Games “was a concern,” he could not foresee any scenario in which the sporting spectacle would not unfold.
But on Sunday, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka said that while she has waited her entire life to compete in the Olympics, the risks of hosting the Tokyo Games should be carefully discussed.
The Games are scheduled to open on July 23 and run through August 8.