'Never put Olympics first': Japanese PM addresses Tokyo outrage

·3-min read
Pictured right, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga and an Olympic Games protester on the left.
Japan's Prime Minister says his people come before the Olympics amid growing calls for the Games to be scrapped. Pic: Getty

The Japanese Prime Minister insists he would never put the Olympic Games ahead of the safety of his own people, amid growing calls to cancel the Tokyo showpiece.

Japan's PM Yoshihide Suga's response came on the same day that an opinion poll dropped which indicates nearly 60 per cent of people in Japan want the Olympics cancelled - less than three months before they begin.

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Japan has extended a state of emergency in Tokyo until the end of May and is struggling to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, raising further questions about whether the Games should go on. 

Its vaccination rate is the lowest among wealthy nations.

International Olympic officials, Tokyo planners and Suga himself have insisted the Games will go on in "a safe and secure" way. 

Foreign spectators have been barred and an elaborate playbook of rules was last month unveiled by planners that aims to prevent coronavirus infections.

A public opinion poll conducted at the weekend by TBS News found 65 per cent wanted the Games cancelled or postponed, with 37 per cent voting to scrap the event altogether and 28 per cent calling for another delay.

More than 300,000 people have signed a petition to cancel the Games in roughly five days since it was launched, and protesters have been taking to the streets in Japan to make their feelings known.

Asked in a parliamentary committee meeting whether the Games will continue even if COVID-19 infections spike, Suga replied: "I've never put Olympics first".

"My priority has been to protect the lives and health of the Japanese population. We must first prevent the spread of the virus," he added.

People are seen here marching on the streets in Japan to oppose the staging of the Tokyo Games.
Many people in Japan want the Tokyo Games cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pic: Getty

He repeated that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the final say on the fate of the Games and that the government's role is to take steps so they can be held safely.

The TBS survey found that Suga's public approval rate was at 40 per cent, close to record lows marked earlier this year.

Top Olympic official John Coates said on Saturday that while Japanese sentiment about the Games "was a concern", the Australian official could foresee no scenario under which the sporting extravaganza would not go ahead.

Naomi Osaka conflicted about Olympics

But on Sunday, Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka said that even though she has waited her whole life to take part in the Olympics, the risks of holding the Tokyo Games should be given serious consideration.

"For me, I feel like if it's putting people at risk and if it's making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now," Osaka said.

Seen here, Naomi Osaka on the left and Tokyo Olympic Games protesters on the right.
Naomi Osaka has serious concerns about the Tokyo Olympic Games being staged later this year. Pic: Getty

"Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I'm an athlete and that's sort of what I have been waiting for my entire life.

"But I think that there is so much important stuff going on, and especially the past year, I think a lot of unexpected things have happened.

"At the end of the day I'm just an athlete, and there is a whole pandemic going on."

The Games are set to get underway on July 23 and run until August 8.

with AAP

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