Olympics 2020: Japanese official condemns ‘damned’ Tokyo Games in starkest criticism yet

It is the most damning public assessment yet of the Olympics by a Japanese official, and comes only seven weeks before the Games are due to begin

Lawrence Ostlere
Friday 04 June 2021 11:36
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<p>Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto is '100 per cent' convinced that the Games will go ahead</p>

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto is '100 per cent' convinced that the Games will go ahead

Plans to stage Tokyo 2020 this summer have been condemned in the most stark terms yet by a Japanese official. Kaori Yamaguchi, a member of the country’s Olympic Committee, said the Games are being held “just for the sake of them” but that it is too late to pull out despite Japan’s ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Yamaguchi wrote in an editorial published by Japan’s Kyodo news agency: “What will these Olympics be for, and for whom? The games have already lost meaning and are being held just for the sake of them. I believe we have already missed the opportunity to cancel.

“We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not.”

Yamaguchi, a prominent former judo world champion, criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) whose president Thomas Bach has been insistent about holding the Games despite polls in Japan suggesting most of the population is against them going ahead. ”The IOC seems to think that public opinion in Japan is not important,” she wrote, adding a call for athletes to take a stand. “This presents a good opportunity for athletes to confront the Olympics.”

It is the most damning public assessment yet of the Olympics by a Japanese official, and comes only seven weeks before the Games are due to begin.

Tokyo remains under a state of emergency until at least 20 June. There remain around 500 new coronavirus cases per day in the city, numbers which have dropped slightly since a second peak in mid May.

The country is struggling with a slow rollout of its vaccination programme. Government medical advisor Dr Shigeru Omi told the Japanese parliament this week that holding a Games in the middle of a pandemic was “abnormal”.

But the Olympics appear set to go ahead with the IOC determined to put on a television spectacle in order to sell its lucrative broadcasting rights, while the Japanese government is hopeful of recouping some of an outlay estimated at more than £20bn. Senior IOC member Richard Pound said last week it would take “Armageddon” to stop the games.

The plan is for the 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes to be ushered into a bubble at the Olympic Village and moved out of the country within two days of their events finishing. Tokyo will also have to cope with the arrival of thousands more coaches and staff, judges and officials, as well as broadcasters and media.

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