All national dailies gave extensive coverage to the State Department’s announcement on Monday that it had raised its travel advisory for Japan to the highest level on its four-tier scale—“Level 4: Do Not Travel”—due to the COVID-19 situation. Asahi and Mainichi emphasized that the updated travel alert may complicate the GOJ’s plan to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics, with Asahi citing U.S. media reports speculating that the advisory could dissuade American and other foreign athletes from participating in the Summer Games.
The dailies concurrently highlighted a statement released by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) reaffirming its commitment to sending its athletes to Japan, as well as comments made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato, Tokyo Governor Koike, and other Japanese officials, all of them downplaying the possible impact of the new travel advisory on their plans to stage a “safe and secure” Games. “We weren’t expecting U.S. spectators in the first place,” said an unnamed high-ranking GOJ official.
However, some GOJ officials are reportedly apprehensive that the updated travel alert may reinforce widespread local opposition to the Suga administration’s resolve to go ahead with the international sporting event. Nikkei wrote that it could have a certain level of impact on other countries since the U.S. has sent the largest delegation to the Olympics in the past. The business daily projected that some countries may choose not to send their athletes to Japan for planned Olympic training camps.
According to Asahi, an unnamed State Department spokesperson said: “The number of Japan-bound U.S. tourists for the Tokyo Olympics is extremely limited. We understand the careful considerations that the Japanese government and the IOC are weighing. The Japanese government has also explained that public health will be the top priority. President Biden supports the U.S. athletes who have trained diligently for the Games and will compete under the tradition of the Olympic spirit.” Pointing out that the U.S. advisory is not legally binding, Nikkei said U.S. travelers may still be able to visit Japan. The business daily also quoted an unnamed U.S. Embassy spokesperson as saying: “The advisory is not asking American citizens in Japan to evacuate.”