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Olympic chief’s Japan visit postponed over COVID-19 as Games loom
- Updated: May 11, 2021
TOKYO: International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach has been forced to postpone a visit to Japan, organisers said Monday (May 10), after a COVID-19 state of emergency was extended less than three months before the Tokyo Games.
Bach’s trip was scheduled for May 17-18 but organisers “decided to postpone it based on various situations including the (government’s) extension of a virus state of emergency”.
It is just the latest coronavirus disruption for the postponed 2020 Games, which have seen several test events cancelled, postponed or moved.
An athletics test event involving more than 400 competitors took place behind closed doors at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
The Japanese government and Olympic officials insist the virus-postponed Games can go ahead safely this summer, although polls show most Japanese people support cancellation or another delay.
In a statement, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said it hoped the visit could go ahead “as soon as possible” and would continue to assess the coronavirus situation. Japanese media said organisers planned to reschedule Bach’s visit for June.
Japan’s state of emergency, which is less strict than blanket lockdowns in other countries, was last week extended to the end of May in the hardest hit regions, including Tokyo.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Games, said Friday it would be “very difficult” to arrange the visit given the state of emergency.
Japan’s COVID-19 outbreak remains much smaller than in many countries, with about 10,800 deaths.
But its vaccine rollout is moving slowly and some areas have seen record cases as more infectious variants drive fresh waves of contagion.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was forced on the defensive on Monday, insisting in parliament he has “never put the Olympics first” and that his priority remains “the lives and health of the Japanese people”.