(ATR) IOC President Thomas Bach delays a planned trip to Japan as domestic opposition to holding Tokyo 2020 grows.
"In the light of the extension of the state of emergency last week and various circumstances we are facing, the visit of IOC President Bach to Japan scheduled for 17 and 18 May has been postponed," Tokyo 2020 said in a statement.
"We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Japan and other relevant factors and will rearrange his visit to Japan as soon as possible."
The state of emergency, due to expire on May 11, was extended until May 31 late last week. It was also expanded to include some areas outside of metropolitan Tokyo and Osaka.
Bach’s visit will be rearranged for June after the state of emergency is lifted, according to Kyodo News.
The postponement of his trip comes as calls for cancelling the Games pick up momentum.
Japan’s main opposition party leader on Monday said in a parliamentary session "it is impossible to protect the lives, health and livelihoods of the Japanese people while holding the Olympics and Paralympics."
Edano Yukio, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party, added "It would be unacceptable if going ahead with the games leads to insufficient measures that allow new variants of the coronavirus to be brought in from abroad", as quoted by Kyodo News.
Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, during a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday, said he has "never put Olympics first" and that his "priority has been to protect the lives and health of the Japanese population".
An online petition calling for the cancellation of the Games has collected more than 300,000 signatures in less than a week.
A public opinion poll, conducted from May 7-9 by the Yomiuri Shimbun, found 59 percent wanting the Games cancelled and only 39 percent saying they should go ahead. Postponement was not an option in this survey. Organizers and other major stakeholders have said for months that postponing the Games for a second time is not possible.
John Coates, the chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Tokyo 2020, admitted over the weekend that the growing opposition is "a concern" but that the Games will happen.
"Absolutely, it’s going ahead," he told reporters after hosting the Australian Olympic Committee annual general meeting on Saturday.
Coates believes the opposition to the Games will decrease as vaccinations in Japan increase.
World Athletics president and IOC member Sebastian Coe attended the test event for athletics at the National Stadium on Sunday. Given the current state of emergency, no spectators were allowed.
Coe expressed confidence that the COVID-19 countermeasures in place will work.
"The Covid protocols, particularly what World Athletics have developed over the last year and a half, with health and science teams who are extremely good athletes have consistently helped deliver events in a safe and secure environment," the two-time Olympic champion said.
"And yes, I recognize that nine athletes coming for a test event in Tokyo is very different from thousands of competitors coming to this city over the course of the summer months.
"But just recently, a week ago, I was in Poland for the World Relays. We have 31 countries. We had 700 competitors, and not one of those competitors left having tested positive and the protocols and the systems in place were clear."
Test events for four other sports are scheduled for the next two weeks, with skateboarding on May 13-14, 3x3 basketball from May 14-16, BMX freestyle cycling on May 17 and shooting from May 17-21.
Written by Gerard Farek
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