Half of Japanese predict Olympics will happen this year, poll shows


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An advertisement for Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is displayed at Narita international airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

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By Makiko Yamazaki and Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (Reuters) -Half of the Japanese public thinks the Olympics will take place this summer, a survey by Yomiuri daily newspaper showed on Monday, less than two months before the Games’ scheduled opening.

For the Tokyo Olympics, already postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, public concerns remain over how Tokyo can hold the global event and keep volunteers, athletes, officials and the Japanese public safe from COVID-19.

At parliament, opposition lawmakers on Monday grilled Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and cabinet ministers over going ahead with the Games despite worries that holding such a big sporting event could further spread coronavirus infections.

Japan has been “cornered” into holding the Games despite public opposition during the pandemic, one of Japan’s sporting heroes and a member of the local Olympic committee said earlier.

Top government officials repeatedly said that the government would continue to work on coronavirus measures for a “safe and secure” Games, and that a decision on domestic spectators would be made this month.

“Taking infection control measures for athletes and Games officials so athletes from the world can safely participate and to protect our people’s lives and health, I think that is the premise of holding (the Olympics),” Suga told lawmakers.

In a Yomiuri survey conducted June 4-6, 50% of respondents said the Games would happen this summer; 26% said they would occur without spectators. That is higher than 48% of those polled saying the event would be cancelled.

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But most of the respondents in the same poll said virus measures for Olympics athletes and participants are not enough, while public support for the Suga administration hit their lowest level, at 37%.

About 3,500 out of over 40,000 “city volunteers” recruited by regional governments for the Olympics have pulled out, NHK reported. That adds to 10,000 volunteers had already withdrawn, according to the organisers.

On Monday morning, Tokyo police reported a deadly incident on one of the city’s subway lines, but did not comment further. Private broadcaster Nippon Television identified the person who died as a senior official at the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC).

The JOC is gathering information on the incident, a committee representative told Reuters.

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