Less Than 100 Days Before Olympics, Japan Considers Pulling the Plug

Japan is hit by a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
japan, tokyo, olympics, covid, cancel
The Tokyo Games are scheduled to start on July 23. Photo: Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP

A Japanese official said on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics could still be cancelled less than 100 days before its scheduled start.

“If it’s impossible, it should be called off,” Toshiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan’s ruling party, told the Japanese news channel TBS, Kyodo News reported, citing the rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases. The recording has not been aired as of Thursday afternoon.


Japan has entered its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, daily new coronavirus cases reached 4,300 nationwide, the highest since Jan. 23. A late and slow vaccine rollout means less than 1 percent of the Japanese population has been vaccinated against the virus.

Even before this week, Japanese organizers of the Tokyo Games had been struggling to hold events.

A city in the western Ehime Prefecture cancelled its torch relay on Wednesday, citing the rising number of COVID-19 infections. Nearly two weeks ago, the International Swimming Federation cancelled Olympic qualifying events for diving and artistic swimming, also because of spiking coronavirus cases.

The games, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic, are set to begin on July 23.

Both the Japanese and international Olympics committees have been firm about pushing through lockdown measures to host the games, despite domestic pressure against it.

A Kyodo news poll in January found that 80 percent of people were in favor of postponing or cancelling the games. A Reuters poll in February found that nearly two-thirds of Japanese firms opposed the Olympics.

Olympic organizers last month banned foreign spectators from attending the games in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. They also asked nations to limit the size of athletes’ entourage, Kyodo News reported. 

The Japanese government has said the more contagious variants of COVID-19 are contributing to the virus’ resurgence.

Earlier this month, North Korea pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, citing coronavirus fears. It was the first and remains the only country to have withdrawn from the games.

Follow Hanako Montgomery on Twitter and Instagram.