All national papers reported on Prime Minister Suga’s extensive remarks on the Tokyo Olympics at the Diet yesterday. He mentioned for the first time the possibility of canceling the Games by saying: “The Olympics will be held on the fundamental premise that the people’s lives and health are protected and that athletes from around the world can participate with confidence in safety. It goes without saying that they will not be convened if this premise cannot be fulfilled.” Mainichi speculated that Suga chose to refer to the possibility of cancellation in view of the continued slide in his support among the public, which is allegedly displeased with the administration’s apparent resolve to convene the Games “at all costs.”
However, the prime minister refused to specify under what circumstances the international sporting event would not be staged by saying: “I myself am not the organizer.” Mainichi wrote that the GOJ’s narrative on the purpose of the Games has shifted from “highlighting reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake” to “signifying humanity’s triumph over the novel coronavirus” and to “demonstrating the power of sports by assembling first-rate athletes for a festival of peace.”
At the same parliamentary committee session, GOJ coronavirus taskforce subcommittee Chairman Omi underscored that his panel is responsible for evaluating the risks of holding the Olympics amid the pandemic. However, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Nishimura dismissed the top epidemiologist’s view by saying that the subcommittee has no mandate to discuss whether or not to convene the Games.
Asahi wrote that the Suga administration is bracing for Omi’s announcement of public health guidelines for holding safe and secure Olympic Games, worrying that public opposition will intensify depending on the content of such advice. The paper speculated that Omi and the other experts on the committee are anxious to issue a warning based on the view that their past reluctance to challenge the decisions by the prime minister and other elected officials to prioritize the economy over infection prevention ended up triggering the third and fourth waves of the virus. “There is no doubt that the Olympics and Paralympics, in addition to the summer and Obon holidays, will increase people’s mobility and help to spread the virus,” said an unnamed member of the panel. “The administration will be held accountable if it decides not to heed our advice.”