Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga gained the support of U.S. President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven leaders for Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics next month, in a boost for the prime minister’s plans to push ahead with the event despite virus concerns.
“President Biden affirmed his support for the Tokyo Olympic Games moving forward with all public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff and spectators,” the White House said in a statement following a conversation between the two leaders Saturday on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the coastal Cornwall region of the U.K.
The weekend statement also referred to Biden’s pride in the U.S. athletes who will be taking part.
Suga reassured Biden that adequate infection-control steps will be put in place to realize a “safe and secure” games, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
During the summit, Suga conveyed to his G7 counterparts his strong resolve to hold the global sporting event and encouraged them to send “strong teams” in hopes of hosting a competition that features top-level athletes.
The final communique from the G7 leaders also mentioned their support for the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in a safe and secure manner “as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19.”
The statements come about five weeks before the curtain is set to rise on the unprecedented staging of the world’s biggest multisports event amid a pandemic. Support from Biden and the other leaders lessens the possibility of major Olympic teams pulling out of the games, which is potentially the only development that could prevent them going ahead at this point.
The Japanese public’s opposition to holding the Olympics appears to have weakened in recent opinion polls, as athletes begin to arrive and the vaccine rollout progresses. But opinion is still divided. A survey by the conservative Yomiuri newspaper earlier this month found 50% of respondents were in favor of going ahead with the event, compared with 48% who said it should be postponed or canceled.
Tokyo and other urban areas are under a state of emergency, which is set to end on Sunday, but lighter restrictions may remain in place to help control the virus until the games begin.
The Olympics are set to run from July 23 to Aug. 6, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5
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