Some Japanese ruling lawmakers are getting pessimistic about holding the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer as scheduled, amid the unabated novel coronavirus crisis.
In addition, there is widespread opposition to this summer's games among citizens in Japan, tired of life under protracted coronavirus restrictions.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, however, remains adamant about the games, despite the coronavirus raging in many parts of Japan and with only two months left before the July 23 Olympic opening ceremony.
Pessimistic views began to emerge from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, after the Golden Week holiday period ended earlier in May.
"Holding the games seems a bit difficult," said a senior LDP member close to Suga. Another lawmaker said the spread of highly contagious variants may make it hard to conduct the events.
The pessimism is spreading especially because the country's third coronavirus state of emergency has failed to stop the resurgence. The government had to extend the emergency for about three weeks to the end of May and expand the areas covered by the measure.
According to media opinion polls, about half of the public says the Tokyo Games should be canceled.
If infections spread among foreign delegations and overwhelm the medical system, it would deal a blow to the ruling camp ahead of a House of Representatives general election to be held by autumn.
Also, speculation is circulating that Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike may switch to seeking the cancellation of the games.
In that case, Koike would make the matter a key campaign issue for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on July 4, an LDP source said.
A member of Komeito, which puts emphasis on the election, hopes that the games will be called off so that the topic will no longer be an election issue.
Meanwhile, a former Cabinet member said the games should be delayed until autumn, hoping that progress in Japan's vaccination program will bring the pandemic under control.
A veteran lawmaker, however, warned against making such an easy decision.
"A postponement would be difficult, considering facility availability and athletes' feelings. If we can't hold (the games) as planned, they have to be canceled," the lawmaker said.
Still, a majority of ruling bloc lawmakers support holding the Tokyo Games as scheduled.
"Our mission is to meet the expectations of many people who hope the games will be held successfully," former LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda told a general meeting of his faction Thursday.
One Lower House member said the games must go ahead even if no foreign athletes participate and their absence makes the events something like a "national sports festival."
If the games are held in a way considered to be successful by many, the administration of Suga, who is considering when to dissolve the lower chamber for a snap election, would receive a tailwind.
On Thursday, Suga met former Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita and was asked whether the Tokyo Games will take place. "We'll do it," Suga declared.
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