Japan’s Suga regrets having to put up with all the heat to host the Olympics in the event of a pandemic

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday he regretted having had to take all the responsibility for hosting the Summer Olympics during a pandemic as his government reportedly favored the authorization of domestic spectators in stadiums to watch.

Tokyo 2020, already postponed for a year, faced strong opposition from the public, medical experts and some former athletes amid a fourth wave of infections.

And Suga’s comments seemed to illustrate the tensions boiling to the surface as the government beefed up its assurances to the world that the games would be safe.

He was speaking in response to comments during a parliamentary session by an opposition lawmaker, who said the prime minister was attacked for hosting the Games during the Covid-19 pandemic as the governor of the host city, Yuriko Koike, is expected to intervene.

“I’m very glad you said what I mean,” Suga replied. “Even though I (tried to make) such remarks, the discussions in Parliament conclude that all responsibilities should be taken by the Prime Minister.

“… I am not trying to shirk (responsibility), but I think it is unfortunate that this is the meaning of debate in Parliament.”

Koike was not immediately available for comment.

Government officials and Olympic Games organizers are in favor of holding the Games with local spectators as Covid-19 vaccines are deployed and the number of cases decreases, the Asahi the newspaper reported, without citing any sources.

The prime minister’s office declined to comment. Foreign spectators are already banned from the Olympics and organizers will finalize spectator plans before the end of this month.

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

Japan’s vaccination rate has increased to around 11% of its population with at least one dose, still slow compared to other advanced countries.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday that foreign media will be monitored via GPS and will not be allowed to visit the homes of local friends or other unregistered areas.

The level of surveillance has also drawn criticism.

“Monitoring foreigners via GPS in order to hold the Olympics safely could result in restriction of freedom and human rights,” said Mitsuru Fukuda, professor at the risk management college of the Nihon University.

“Japan’s judgment may be called into question and the decision could harm Japan’s interests.”

Some Japanese doubted the effect of the measure, with commentators on social media saying journalists could simply leave their smartphones in their hotels and travel wherever they wanted.

Popular singer Yuzo Kayama has become the latest celebrity to step down from the Olympic Torch Relay, saying he is not happy to host the Games given the current conditions around the world, Kyodo News reported. – Reuters

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