Tokyo 2020 will be difficult to stage, head of Japan medical group warns

FILE PHOTO: The Olympic rings are illuminated in front of the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

TOKYO, 16 APRIL 2021 (INSIDE THE GAMES) – Tokyo Medical Association chair Haruo Ozaki has warned staging this year’s rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be “really difficult” amid growing concerns over a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in Japan.

Ozaki has also called on organisers to present “concrete measures” on how it proposes to stop the spread of COVID-19 during the Games.

His comments come as Tokyo 2020 celebrates the 100 days-to-go milestone and while the Japanese capital continues to battle with rising coronavirus cases.

Organisers have banned overseas spectators from attending the Games and are set to implement a series of coronavirus countermeasures to ensure the safe staging of the event.

But Ozaki has expressed his reservations over the Olympics taking place this year as fears grow over COVID-19, which is continuing to cause havoc across the world.

“If infections spread further, in reality it would be difficult to hold the Olympics in its regular form with athletes coming from various countries, even if the Games are held with no spectators,” said Ozak in a report by Japanese newspaper Sports Hochi.

Speaking on Facebook, Ozaki said he was inspired by the success of Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee and golfer Hideki Matsuyama ahead of Tokyo 2020 but underlined the challenges facing organisers to put on the event during the pandemic.

“I couldn’t hold back my tears watching Ikee and Matsuyama’s great performances,” Ozaki wrote.

“I want to watch their great performances at the Olympics too.

“But, from my position as the head of medical workers, I have to say that holding the Games is really difficult.”

Ozaki also urged organisers to “show concrete measures on how they can prevent the spread of infection at home and abroad”.

“Then we would like to sincerely study if such a plan is realistic,” Ozaki added.

Tokyo reported 591 new infections over the past 24 hours, while Osaka set a new daily record for the prefecture by posting 1,130 cases.

Tougher COVID-19 measures have been imposed in Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa as well as Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi because of a spike in infections.

According to Kyodo News, Shigeru Omi, an infectious disease expert who chairs the Japanese Government’s subcommittee, said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga should expand areas subject to strict restrictions “in an extremely swift and nimble manner”.

But Suga said: “I don’t see a big wave (of infections) nationwide.”

It is also reported that the country’s Government is considering adding further prefectures to the list of areas under measures, which include shorter opening hours for businesses.

Second versions of playbooks, outlining how the Games are set to take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are due to be published on April 28.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto stressed organisers need to be “meticulous and bold at the same time [and] prepare ourselves for the Games” during a ceremony held to mark the 100 days to go milestone.

A recent poll conducted by Kyodo News revealed that 39.2 per cent of respondents want the Games to be cancelled and 32.8 per cent are in favour of another delay.

The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics are due to open on July 23 and close on August 8, with the Paralympics set to follow between August 24 and September 5.

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