“Anything can happen”, a Japanese minister admitted on Friday about the Tokyo Olympics, while Japan is suffering a strong new wave of the coronavirus, almost six months before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, postponed last year .
Taro Kono, minister of administrative reform and key figure in the government, refused to rule out the possibility of the Games being canceled, with Tokyo and ten other departments in Japan currently in a state of emergency until at least February 7.
“Given the coronavirus situation, anything can happen,” Kono said during a press briefing.
“The organizing committee and the IOC (the International Olympic Committee, Editor’s note) must of course think about contingency plans,” he said, while insisting that the Japanese government was “firmly” preparing for the Olympic Games and Paralympics.
Mr Kono is the first high-ranking politician to publicly distance himself from the line of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who insists that Japan will be able to organize “safe and secure” Games as planned this summer.
Despite the arrival of vaccines in Japan in the coming months, the support of the Japanese population for the Olympics has dropped considerably. A recent poll in the archipelago showed that 80% of those polled believe the Games should be postponed again or simply canceled.
Local media reported Thursday night that Japan will be suspending an exemption that allowed foreign athletes to enter the country to train even during the state of emergency.
Japanese athletes will still be allowed to re-enter the country, but will no longer be able to avoid the 14-day period of isolation upon their return.
The entry ban for foreign athletes who are not residents of Japan is expected to affect professional baseball and football teams, which are about to start their season.
The start of the Japanese Top League rugby championship season was also postponed this week, as many players from several teams tested positive for the coronavirus.