IOC president Thomas Bach cancels trip to Japan as COVID-19 cases continue to surge
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Japan, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has opted to cancel his upcoming trip to the country, according to The Associated Press.
Bach, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said Monday, has canceled his trip next week because it was too “tough” logistically. He was scheduled to visit Hiroshima on Monday and meet the Olympic torch relay before likely heading to Tokyo.
No plans for a rescheduled trip have been announced, though that will happen “as soon as possible.”
The Olympics, which were already postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, are set to start on July 23 in Tokyo. Despite repeated concerns about the pandemic, from athletes and officials alike, Tokyo organizers and the IOC have repeatedly insisted that the Games will still go forward.
COVID-19 outbreak in Japan
Japan has had more than 642,000 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to The New York Times, and nearly 11,000 deaths. Only about 2% of the country has been vaccinated, too.
Japan declared a third state of emergency last month for significant portions of the country, including Tokyo, in an effort to slow infections and variants. The “short and intensive” emergency orders came right as the “golden week” celebrations kicked off.
The state of emergency was initially set to expire on Tuesday, but was extended until the end of the month.
Naomi Osaka latest to question Olympics
Though it would mark her Olympics debut, tennis star Naomi Osaka became the latest athlete to question whether holding the Games at all is appropriate.
Osaka, speaking at the Italian Open on Sunday, said that she has been vaccinated but isn’t sure if holding a mass event like the Olympics is the safest, or smartest, decision.
“Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” Osaka said Sunday.
“But I think that there’s so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year,” she added. “I think a lot of unexpected things have happened and if it’s putting people at risk, and if it’s making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now.”
Osaka isn’t alone, either. According to The Associated Press, between 60%-80% of Japanese people have said in recent polls that the Olympics should either be postponed again or canceled completely.
Yukio Edano, the head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan — which is the main opposition party in the country — said in Parliament on Monday that holding the Games isn’t possible to do safely.
“I think it is possible that the measures our nation takes to protect human life and livelihoods simply will not make it possible to hold the Olympics,” Edano said, via The Associated Press. “In that situation, the IOC and Tokyo city government will have to make a decision, and the government will back that.”
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