The billionaire founder and chief executive of Japanese online retailer Rakuten Group Inc. called the Tokyo Olympics a “suicide mission” in an interview with broadcaster CNN.
Hiroshi Mikitani, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, said the sporting event, due to start in two months, should not be held this year. His comments came as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated on Friday that it was possible to hold the games safely.
“The fact that we are so late for the vaccination, it’s really dangerous to host the big international event,” Mikitani said in the interview, which was posted on CNN’s website. “This is like a suicide mission,” he added.
Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency covering most of the country’s major urban areas, in a bid to get the virus spread under control. Suga on Friday announced the measure would be expanded to cover three more prefectures.
Polls have shown the public is largely against the idea of staging the games, which have already been postponed by a year, during the pandemic. A survey published by the Yomiuri newspaper this week found 59% of respondents said the event should be canceled.
The number of people in serious condition in Japan due to the virus is at its highest level since the pandemic began, at about 1,200. Meanwhile, just 3.2% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with 54.1% in the U.K. and 46.8% in the U.S.
While most athletes are expected to be vaccinated ahead of the games, many people have expressed concern about the risk posed by the thousands of other people who are expected to descend on the Japanese capital for the event, which is scheduled to begin July 23.
Suga told reporters Friday that the movements of foreign media covering the Olympics would be restricted and that the government would consider deporting those who break the rules.
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