A senior Japanese ruling party official said cancelling this year’s Olympic Games is an option if the coronavirus crisis becomes too dire, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday, less than 100 days out from the planned start of the Games.
If rising coronavirus cases means “it is said to be impossible we would have to give up,” Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in comments in a television interview due to air on Friday, Kyodo reported.
Party heavweight Nikai, a key backer of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is known for his frank comments, which come as many other ruling party lawmakers have avoided discussing the hot button issue of a possible cancellation.
The world’s biggest sporting event has already been delayed by a year and is being held without international spectators.
Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections, with numbers trending higher in Tokyo after the government ended a state of emergency, and Osaka suffering a record number of cases.
The government is pushing ahead with preparations incorporating social distancing measures and restrictions on spectators for the Games set to begin on July 23, with a scaled back torch relay underway.
Polls indicate little support in Japan for holding the Games during a global pandemic. “Canceling Olympics” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday with nearly 300,000 tweets from users.
The comments comes as health experts have in the past day raised alarm at the infection spread and strain on the medical system.
Japan’s top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, acknowledged the pandemic had entered a fourth wave, driven by mutant strains, with Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura urging in a magazine commentary that the Olympics be postponed.
Olympic organisers and Japan’s national Olympic committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.