Poll: Over 80pc in Japan oppose Olympics this year

This picture taken May 14, 2021 shows Kenji Utsunomiya, a Japanese lawyer and former Tokyo gubernatorial candidate, displaying a campaign poster calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics during his press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in Tokyo. — AFP pic
This picture taken May 14, 2021 shows Kenji Utsunomiya, a Japanese lawyer and former Tokyo gubernatorial candidate, displaying a campaign poster calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics during his press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in Tokyo. — AFP pic

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TOKYO, May 17 — More than 80 per cent of Japanese oppose hosting the virus-postponed Olympics this year, a new poll showed today, underlining public antipathy less than 10 weeks before the Tokyo Games.

The latest downbeat survey comes after Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency Friday as the nation battles a fourth wave of infections.

The surge in cases has put pressure on the country’s healthcare system, with medical professionals repeatedly warning about shortages and burnout.

The weekend poll by the Asahi Shimbun daily found 43 per cent of respondents want the 2020 Games cancelled, and 40 per cent want a further postponement.

Those figures are up from 35 per cent who backed cancellation in a survey by the paper a month ago, and 34 per cent who wanted a further delay.

“I am one of those in the 80 per cent. I think the Olympics should be postponed. Is it that difficult to postpone it?” passer-by Sumiko Usui, 74, told AFP in Tokyo.

Takahiro Yoshida, 53, also expressed doubts over the event, which involves thousands of overseas athletes, officials and media.

“In my honest opinion, it will be difficult to hold the Games... Athletes from overseas must be worried as well, because Japan’s coronavirus situation is bad,” he said.

“I want to see it happen, but it will probably be difficult when you think about the bigger picture.”

Only 14 per cent support holding the Games this summer as scheduled, down from 28 per cent, according to the Asahi poll of 1,527 replies from 3,191 telephone calls.

If the Games go ahead, 59 per cent of respondents said they want no spectators, with 33 per cent backing lower fan numbers and three per cent a regular-capacity Games.

Mass vaccinations

For months, polling has found a majority in Japan oppose holding the Games this summer.

A separate poll by Kyodo News published yesterday showed 59.7 per cent back cancellation, though further postponement was not listed as an option.

Olympic organisers say tough anti-virus measures, including regular testing of athletes and a ban on overseas fans, will keep the Games safe.

But the Kyodo poll found 87.7 per cent of respondents worry that an influx of athletes and staff members from abroad may spread the virus.

Asked about the polls, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said the government would “make efforts so that the Japanese people understand the Tokyo Games will be held in a safe and secure manner”.

“We need to give explanations on details of the concrete (coronavirus) measures,” he said, insisting that the Games would not put further pressure on medical services.

Japan has seen a smaller Covid-19 outbreak than many countries, with fewer than 11,500 deaths so far. But the government has come under pressure for its vaccine rollout.

The Kyodo poll found 85 per cent of respondents considered the rollout slow, with 71.5 per cent unhappy with the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Thousands of slots were snapped up today as online bookings opened for two mass vaccination centres which will deliver up to 10,000 shots a day in Tokyo and 5,000 in Osaka, initially to the elderly.

All 25,000 available slots were already booked up in Osaka, the centre said, while around 21,000 reservations were made in Tokyo. — AFP

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