The world needs to see that Japan can stage a safe Olympics, the country’s prime minister told sports officials ahead of the Tokyo Games.
Tens of thousands of athletes, officials, games staff and media are arriving in Japan amid a local state of emergency and widespread opposition from the general public.
Events start Wednesday in softball and women’s soccer two days ahead of the formal opening ceremony of an Olympics already postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The world is faced with great difficulties,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told International Olympic Committee members in a closed-door meeting at a five-star hotel in Tokyo, adding “we can bring success to the delivery of the Games.”
“Such fact has to be communicated from Japan to the rest of the world,” Suga said through an interpreter. “We will protect the health and security of the Japanese public.”
He acknowledged Japan’s path through the pandemic toward the Olympics had gone “sometimes backward at times.” “But vaccination has started and after a long tunnel an exit is now in our sight,” Suga said.
The prime minister’s office said Monday more than 21% of Japan’s 126 million population has been inoculated. Health experts in Japan have questioned allowing so many international visitors for the games, which end on Aug. 8. There will be no local or foreign fans at events. The Paralympics will follow in late August.