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9 governors say Tokyo Games should be canceled, delayed depending on circumstances: poll

The Olympic rings re-installed at Odaiba Marine Park in Minato Ward, Tokyo, are seen in December 2020. (Mainichi/Toshiki Miyama)

TOKYO -- Nine of Japan's 47 prefectural governors think the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games should be canceled or postponed depending on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Mainichi Shimbun survey. Of the nine, the prefectures of Saitama, Shizuoka, and Yamanashi are set to provide venues for the upcoming games.

    The Mainichi Shimbun sent the questionnaire to all 47 governors on April 20, and received answers from them all by April 28. The first question asked what their thoughts on holding the games as governors who are expected to protect their residents' health, and respondents could choose between answering four options: The games should be held whatever the circumstances of the pandemic; should be canceled or postponed depending on the circumstances; now is the time to decide to cancel or postpone, and I don't know.

    The nine saying it should be canceled or postponed based on circumstances were the governors of Akita, Ibaraki, Saitama, Yamanashi, Nagano, Shizuoka, Tottori, Oita, and Okinawa. Five governors said they didn't know, and none chose the other options.

    The second question asked if each prefecture stood to gain if the games were held; 41 governors, including the nine who said the games should be canceled or postponed depending on circumstances, replied "yes" or "somewhat yes."

    Gov. Motohiro Ono of Saitama -- which is planned to host Olympic golf, basketball, soccer, and shooting events -- added to his answer: "We're providing the most venues after Tokyo. While doing our best to prepare a safe and secure event, we need to keep an eye on the situation and calmly make a decision."

    Shizuoka Prefecture will host cycling; Gov. Heita Kawakatsu responded: "If infections continue spreading and it becomes clear for all to see that holding the games is impossible, then we'll have no choice but to cancel or postpone." Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa made similar remarks.

    Gov. Shinji Hirai of Tottori Prefecture, which has the second lowest infection numbers nationwide, gave his thoughts: "Promoting world peace through sports is significant, but the priority is for all nations to cooperate and get this pandemic under control."

    The governors of five prefectures -- Toyama, Okayama, Hiroshima, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima -- chose "I don't know." The remaining 33 did not select from the prepared answers, and instead suggested that it was up to the Japanese government, the organizers, or the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to make the decision.

    "We're not in a position to decide," wrote the governor of Fukui. Gifu's governor said, "The organizers and others should come to a conclusion." Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike also didn't choose an answer, writing, "We are all in the fight to suppress the pandemic, and we will continue to prepare a safe and secure event."

    Regarding the second question asking if there are merits to the games being held, the Mainichi Shimbun prepared four choices: Yes, somewhat yes, somewhat no and no. Governors of 31 prefectures chose yes, while 10 picked somewhat yes and gave reasons including that it has "a positive impact on sports promotion" or "publicity abroad." Governors in Tochigi, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Shimane, and Saga neither answered nor picked from fixed options. None chose somewhat no or no.

    The Olympics and Paralympics are scheduled to take place July 23 to September 5. Questions are being raised over whether they should be held on schedule following public outcry over organizers' moves to call for doctors and nurses to help with the games while the country falls short on carrying out coronavirus vaccinations and amid insufficient treatment for COVID-19. Opinion polls in April by various media outlets showed 60% to 70% of the public supporting cancellation or rescheduling.

    (Japanese original by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and Shunsuke Sekiya, Tokyo City News Department)

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