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Japan gov’t likely to tolerate Tokyo Games without spectators

Tokyo, Jan. 29 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government is likely to tolerate a possible decision by the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government to hold the games this summer without spectators.

With the prolonged novel coronavirus crisis casting a shadow over the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which were postponed by one year from 2020 due to the pandemic, preventing the events from being canceled is apparently becoming the top priority for the government.

On Thursday, Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee, told reporters that the committee is considering holding the events without spectators as an option. “Basically, we don’t want to hold the games behind closed doors, but we need to study the possibility as we run simulations,” Mori said.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference on Friday that the government is “making efforts while assuming various situations.”

The government has been making preparations with a determination to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games with spectators, to give a boost to the Japanese economy.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expressed such determination to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach when they held talks in November last year.

Senior government officials had also stressed that there is no way to hold the events behind closed doors.

But an explosive resurgence of the new coronavirus in Japan since late last year has shifted the government’s stubborn stance.

The government’s declaration of a fresh coronavirus state of emergency earlier this month for Tokyo and some other prefectures fueled speculation in and outside Japan about the games’ possible cancellation.

“It’s up to the organizing committee and the metropolitan government to decide, and we will support their efforts in various ways,” a senior central government official said, showing some understanding to holding the games without spectators.

Meanwhile, the government remains determined to hold the games as scheduled, with no option to cancel them in mind.

At an online meeting of the World Economic Forum on Friday, Suga reiterated his view that the events should be held as a testament that humanity has defeated the novel coronavirus.

Suga is apparently concerned that cancellation would send a message that the Japanese government’s countermeasures have proved ineffective in stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

The country is set to start vaccinations against the new coronavirus in late February, beginning with medical workers. The government regards vaccines as “the trump card” for preventing a spread of infections.

While it is still uncertain when all people in the country will have been vaccinated, a Suga cabinet minister said that the Olympics and Paralympics will be held “even without vaccinations.”

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