Kaori Yamaguchi, a Japanese Olympic Committee board member on Friday blasted organisers of the Tokyo Olympic for ignoring public concerns about holding the event amid a pandemic.
Yamaguchi bared his mind in an opinion piece carried by Japan’s Kyodo news agency.
He said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) appeared to think it could steamroll over the wishes of the Japanese public, who, surveys show, overwhelmingly want the games cancelled or postponed.
Already postponed from last year because of the pandemic, a scaled-down version of the Games with no foreign spectators is set to start on July 23 despite public fears the event could drain medical resources and spread the coronavirus as Japan battles a fourth wave of infections.
The government’s top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, told parliament on Friday the biggest risk from the Games was increased movement of the general public, which has contributed to past rises in infections.
“People have had enough of the ‘stay home’ request … Unless (the government) comes up with something new in this critical phase it’s going to be impossible” to prevent the risk of contagion, Omi said.
The JOC’s Yamaguchi, a former Olympic medallist in judo, accused the Japanese government, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the IOC of “avoiding dialogue” and said the IOC “seems to think that public opinion in Japan is not important.”
“I believe we have already missed the opportunity to cancel … We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not.”
“HOPE AND COURAGE”
A series of comments by IOC officials have sparked outrage in Japan, including one by IOC Vice President John Coates that the Olympics would be held even under a state of emergency such as is currently in place in Tokyo and other regions.
Japan’s government also says the Games can go ahead safely despite a slow vaccine rollout and rising numbers of severe coronavirus cases straining the medical system. The country has recorded nearly 750,000 cases and more than 13,000 deaths.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces a general election and a ruling party leadership race this year, and pulling off the Games, with an estimated budget of $15.4 billion, is seen as critical to keeping his job.
Medical adviser Omi this week issued his strongest warning yet over what he characterised as a lack of discussion within the government and organising committee over how to control the movement of people if the Games go ahead.