International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach’s planned visit to Japan in mid-May will be “very difficult” amid a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in the country, the head of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said Friday.
Seiko Hashimoto said at a regular news conference that the situation is not favorable for him to visit Japan given that Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since late last month.
“I think it is very important to have President Bach look at the current situation. However, when the state of emergency will be extended, it will likely cause a huge burden on him to visit during that period,” Hashimoto said.
The IOC president was initially expected to participate in an Olympic torch relay event in Hiroshima on May 17 and meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga the following day, roughly two months before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, officials familiar with the plan said earlier.
Bach was expected to reaffirm with the organizers their commitment to safely hosting the games amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, Japan has been experiencing a large increase in infections since April, overwhelming the medical system.
On Friday, Suga extended a state of emergency covering the capital past its scheduled end date of May 11 to the end of the month, having deemed more time is needed to bring down COVID-19 cases.
Bach drew flak on social media last month when he said the measure, which took effect on April 25, was “not related to the Olympic Games.”
This month’s scheduled trip was supposed to be Bach’s first time in Japan since November last year when he met with Suga and visited the National Stadium, the main Olympic venue.
According to a nationwide survey conducted by Kyodo News in April, only 24.5% of the respondents supported the Olympics and Paralympics going ahead this summer.
The Japan leg of the Olympic torch relay started in late March, but it has been taken off of public roads in some municipalities to prevent the further spread of the virus.
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