Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance

JAPANESE officials have been urged not to risk lives by pressing ahead with the Tokyo Olympics in the wake of the coronavirus emergency as opposition against holding them as scheduled grows.
Officials like Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee Chief, Thomas Bach have repeatedly insisted preparations should continue to light the Olympic flame on July 24. With events from the Premier League to NBA basketball scrapped, and Japanese sport also at a standstill, even US President Donald Trump has suggested putting the Olympics on hold.
Japan has seen relatively few cases, with 814 testing positive and 24 dead. Some people on the streets of Tokyo voiced concern for the fans that would pour in from abroad. Koki Miura, a 27-year-old employee at an internet company, said “To be honest, even if Japan overcomes this crisis, we wouldn’t receive visitors from the world. I think we’d better not hold it.
“We cannot sacrifice people’s lives for it,” added Miura, who said the Games should be postponed, if not cancelled outright.
Public opinion in Japan appears to be moving against the Games. A poll for public broadcaster NHK taken March 6-9 suggested 45 percent were opposed to going ahead as planned, with 40 percent in favour. Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has said it is “unthinkable” to cancel the Olympics but the decision rests with the IOC, which is planning emergency talks with international sports federations over the virus on Tuesday, according to an IOC source.
Bach has stressed the IOC will follow World Health Organization recommendations regarding a possible postponement. But he has also acknowledged that the cancellation of qualifying events was already posing “serious problems”. At the beginning of March, Bach said the IOC would show “flexibility” regarding the qualifications for the Tokyo and encouraged “all athletes to continue to prepare” for the Games. Masao Sugawara, a 90-year-old pensioner, said “Personally, I think it would be safer to postpone the Olympics for a year, just as President Trump said. Look at the panic.”
“Of course it would be disappointing, though,” he admitted. This comes as the virus which has killed 6,400 people worldwide shreds the international sporting calendar, with almost no elite sporting action taking place last weekend. Scrapping the Olympics would be a heart-breaking decision for Tokyo residents who rushed to buy tickets, and authorities whose preparations have won widespread praise with the majority of venues ready well ahead of schedule.
AFP