• SHARE

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is lamenting drawing so much criticism for Japan's hosting of the Olympics during a pandemic, while his government is reported to favor allowing domestic spectators into stadiums to watch.

Many Japanese people and medical experts oppose staging the 2020 Games as planned from July 23, after already being postponed a year, as their nation suffers a fourth infection wave.

Suga, who is expected to call a snap election after the event, has staked his political reputation on going ahead with the Olympics, which he has said will bring joy to the world and be safely conducted within a "bubble."

His sensitivity to criticism emerged at the Diet on Wednesday when an opposition lawmaker noted Suga was attracting criticism over the Olympics rather than host city governor, Yuriko Koike.

"I'm very glad you said what I want to say," he replied.

"Even though I (tried to make) such remarks, parliament's discussions conclude that all the responsibilities should be taken by the prime minister. … I am not trying to run away from (responsibilities), but I feel it is regrettable that this is the direction of the debate in parliament."

Suga's ratings have fallen from 62% when he took office last year to 35% now, according to polls for public broadcaster NHK.

Koike, who has not taken so much heat over the Olympics, was not immediately available for comment.

With foreign spectators already prohibited from the Olympics, the Asahi newspaper said organizers were optimistic about allowing domestic spectators into venues given that COVID-19 vaccines were being rolled out and case numbers declining.

Japan has been spared the widespread infections seen elsewhere, but has recorded more than 760,000 cases and more than 13,600 deaths. Tokyo and some other regions are under a state of emergency set to be lifted on June 20.

About 11% of Japanese have had at least one vaccine dose — still slow compared with other rich nations.

To try and reassure the public, Tokyo 2020 organizers have said visiting athletes and media crews will be monitored via GPS for the first 14 days of their stay to ensure they do not stray from itineraries.

However, the level of surveillance drew criticism, while some social media users also said the measure could be rendered ineffective if people simply leave their smartphones at hotels.

"Monitoring foreigners via GPS for the sake of holding the Olympics safely could lead to restriction of freedom and human rights," said Mitsuru Fukuda, professor at the College of Risk Management at Nihon University.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Wednesday said some athletes she has met are "so excited to be able to participate in the games" despite some of the most difficult circumstances ever seen for a modern Olympics.

But, the same day, the Australian baseball team pulled out of the final qualifying tournament for the games due to "insurmountable" challenges amid the pandemic.

Popular Japanese singer Yuzo Kayama became the latest celebrity withdrawing from the Olympics torch relay, saying he was not happy about holding the games given current conditions around the world, Kyodo News reported.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)