A top executive of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games sponsor Toyota Motor Corp. said officials of the company felt “conflicted” over the desire to see the Olympics succeed and public concerns about holding the event during a pandemic.
Less than three months before the event begins on July 23, Japan is battling a surge in coronavirus infections, and a majority of the population wants them canceled or postponed for a second time.
“As sponsors, it breaks our heart to see public discontent aimed at athletes,” the automaker’s operating officer, Jun Nagata, told an earnings briefing on Wednesday.
“To be honest, we are conflicted every day over what the best course of action is.”
The IOC, organizers in Japan and the government have repeatedly vowed to hold the Games as scheduled until Aug. 8, despite rampant criticism.
The governor of Ibaraki Prefecture, which is scheduled to host some Olympic soccer events, said a further postponement or outright cancellation should be considered if the pandemic worsened.
“I don’t think we can gain the understanding of the international community, let alone Japan, if we were to host the Olympics in the midst of a medical collapse,” Gov. Kazuhiko Ooigawa told a news briefing on Tuesday.
Ooigawa added that he declined a request from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee for hospital beds to be reserved for the athletes.
In an article on Tuesday titled, “A sports event shouldn’t be a superspreader,” the New York Times newspaper joined the calls for cancellation.
“It’s time to listen to science and halt the dangerous charade,” it said.
Japan has escaped the worst of the pandemic, but 11,000 people have died and the medical system has been severely stretched by the latest surge, with 925 new infections on Tuesday in Tokyo.
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