Opposition lawmakers are stepping up their calls for the country to cancel or postpone this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We need to be serious about considering options including canceling the events to protect the lives of the people,” Kenta Izumi, policy chief of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said at a party meeting on Wednesday.
The fresh wave of infections has alarmed the CDP, which had not taken a clear stance on whether the Tokyo Games should take place this summer as planned.
At a news conference on April 22, Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party, reiterated the party’s demand that the games be canceled.
The government “will no longer be able to make a right policy decision if it remains committed to holding the games while issuing a state of emergency” over the pandemic, Shii said. “A decision to cancel the events needs to be made immediately.”
Opposition lawmakers are frustrated at the government’s failure to get the pandemic under control less than three months before the Olympics open on July 23.
On Wednesday, Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee, left open the possibility of holding the events without spectators unless the COVID-19 situation improves.
But a ban on spectators will cost the committee ¥90 billion in ticket revenue, possibly leading to an additional burden on taxpayers. Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, called for considering postponing the games.
Opposition parties plan to grill Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other government officials about the Tokyo Games when lawmakers get together for Budget Committee meetings of both chambers of the Diet on May 10.
Both ruling and opposition lawmakers are paying close attention to speculation that Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike will pledge not to hold the games this summer as part of a campaign platform for Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), which she used to lead and now serves in the capacity of a special adviser, for the July 4 metropolitan assembly election.
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