Despite public outcry about the growing coronavirus scourge, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and International Olympic Committee (IOC), chief Thomas Bach, have repeatedly refused to cancel or postpone the ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games’ which is slated for July 24, 2020.
Japan has seen relatively few cases of coronavirus – with 814 testing positive and 24 dead – but some people on the streets of Tokyo voiced concern for the fans that would pour in from abroad.
Koki Miura, a 27-year-old employee at an internet company, told AFP: “To be honest, even if Japan overcomes this crisis, we wouldn’t receive visitors from the world. I think we’d better not hold it.
“We cannot sacrifice people’s lives for it,” added Koki, who said the Games should be postponed – if not cancelled outright.
Public opinion in Japan appears to be moving against the games, as a poll for public broadcaster NHK taken March 6-9 suggested 45% were opposed to going ahead as planned, with 40% in favour.
Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, has said it is ‘unthinkable’ to cancel the Olympics but the decision rests with the IOC, which is planning emergency talks with international sports federations over the virus tomorrow, according to an IOC source.
Thomas has stressed the IOC will follow World Health Organization recommendations regarding a possible postponement. But he has also acknowledged that the cancellation of qualifying events was already posing ‘serious problems’.
At the beginning of March, Bach said the IOC would show ‘flexibility’ regarding the qualifications for the Tokyo and encouraged ‘all athletes to continue to prepare’ for the Games.
Masao Sugawara, a 90-year-old pensioner, told AFP: “Personally, I think it would be safer to postpone the Olympics for a year, just as President Trump said. Look at the panic. Of course it would be disappointing, though.”
Masao said the magnitude of the coronavirus trumped sporting considerations: “I am 90 years old. Except for wartime, I have never felt so worried.”
Manfred Otto, 45, a half-Japanese, half-German lawyer, said he was ‘worried’ about the Games and stressed: “We really need to be careful. If the outbreak does not get controlled by June or July, I think we should postpone it.”
The betting odds are increasingly shifting towards the opening ceremony not taking place on July 24, with bookmaker Paddy Power offering 4-1 against the Games opening on time.
Scrapping the Olympics would be a heartbreaking decision for Tokyo residents who rushed to buy tickets, and authorities whose preparations have won widespread praise – with the majority of venues ready well ahead of schedule.
Hisaya Suzuki, 47, said he had tickets to see baseball, Japan’s most popular sport.
He said: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I really wanted to take my son. If there will be negative consequences, it may be wiser to pause it (the Games).”
Masao said the magnitude of the coronavirus trumped sporting considerations: ‘I am 90 years old. Except for wartime, I have never felt so worried.’
The Coronavirus disease has claimed over 6,000 lives and affected about 150 countries in three months.
KanyiDaily had reported that Nigeria currently have 12 confirmed cases of the dreaded coronavirus. Eleven in Lagos and one in Ekiti.