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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures at a news conference on March 14. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
politics

Abe says G7 supports 'complete' Games, but polls back postponement

45 Comments
By Chang-Ran Kim and Kiyoshi Takenaka

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that Group of Seven leaders had agreed to support a "complete" Olympics, but dodged questions about whether any of the leaders had brought up the possibility of postponement.

His comments come as concerns mount about whether the Games can proceed as planned now that the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic has brought business and social activity in many countries to a standstill and panic to financial markets.

A fresh domestic poll showed most Japanese believe the Games should be postponed.

In a unprecedented meeting with other G7 leaders by videoconference to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, Abe said he had told them: "We are doing everything in our power to prepare (for the Games), and we want to aim for a complete event as proof that mankind can defeat the new coronavirus."

When pressed at a briefing about whether there had been discussion of a delay, Abe repeated the same line.

Interpreting Abe's comments at a news conference hours later, Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said a "complete" event referred to holding the Games this summer as scheduled, with spectators present.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also dodged a question about the timing of the Games, repeating the government's stance that it continued to work with the International Olympic Committee, organizing members and the Tokyo government on preparations.

An Asahi newspaper poll published on Tuesday showed 63% of people across Japan said the games should be postponed, while 23% said they should be held as planned. A similar poll by Kyodo News published on Monday showed almost 70% of respondents do not think Tokyo will be able to host the gathering as planned.

At the G7 video conference, leaders committed to doing "whatever is necessary" to battle the coronavirus pandemic and to work together more closely to protect public health, jobs and growth, and issued a statement promising to address the health and economic risks.

John Coates, the IOC's point man for the Tokyo Games, told Australia's Fairfax media that there was no need to make a call on the Games by May, as IOC committee member Dick Pound had previously suggested.

"The IOC didn't recognize any dates that Dick came up with and I think Dick backed off that as well," Coates, the IOC Coordination Commission chairman was quoted as saying in the report. "It's all proceeding to start on the 24th of July."

The virus has infected almost 180,000 people and killed over 7,000 worldwide, with the epicenter now in Europe. Sports competitions have come to a halt in Europe, hampering athletes' preparations.

Further stoking those concerns, the head of the French Olympic Committee said on Monday the pandemic must have reached its peak and be on the wane by the end of May for the Tokyo Olympics to be staged on schedule.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said the worst of the virus could be over by July or August, a more specific and lengthier timeframe than he has previously suggested.

The Olympics are due to run from July 24 to Aug 9.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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Hell Abe's BBF stated this is, optimistically speaking, going to last until at least July or August.

Abe is only delaying the inevitable here!

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I think that Abe and Koike and others (including the IOC) have already resigned themselves to at least postponing, and possibly canceling the Games. But they are trying to appear hopeful so as to not completely destroy the Japanese economy. They want this corona virus to stabilize at least a bit more before they tell us that "it's just not possible to hold the Olympics"

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Interesting how he can claim this because in Europe they are cancelling the Euro cup and all the national football leagues are suspended as well.

In a radio of my country they also stated that postpone the olympics by a year or two would be the most logic and safe measure,for the common people and athletes as well.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Postpone Abe! For once get ahead of the curve and control the process.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Making a sporting fixture the most important item on the agenda must be revised.

People in Japan are dying and jobs are being lost!

Where is Abe’s plan for this?

The most incompetent PM award (ever) of Japan must surely go to this klutz....

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Nobody trust Asahi's polls.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

@BugleBoy

But they are trying to appear hopeful so as to not completely destroy the Japanese economy.

You might have a point but I will offer a slightly different opinion.

a. Most people I am talking to now (even Japanese who I know as government supporters) think action should be taken as soon as possible to either postpone or cancel the events. They believe that the Olympics are a distraction and that all efforts should be toward serving and supporting the Japanese public, and

b. I think that the uncertainty being shown right now makes people think that the Japanese government "elites" do not care about the public and only cares about not losing the Olympics.

c. I believe it can be more damaging to take the strategy of waiting to cancel. The government is not taking strong measures when compared to other countries and the lack of leadership may do more damage than cancelling or delaying the Olympics.

It is also a possibility that the IOC is putting outside pressure on Japan not to cancel or delay now.

Mr. Abe; if there ever was a time to show true leadership and show that your first concern is for the Japanese citizens and residents of Japan then now is the time to make a swift and decisive decision to postpone or cancel.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Serious question; I have no idea if the answer.

Can Abe/Japan postpone the Olympics unilaterally? Or is it up to the IOC?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Postponing to next year might still be too soon. I predict we will see a 2022 Olympics. There are too many cases and no vaccine yet. Cases are far higher - maybe more than 20 times higher than the official figures. This is not just in Japan but in many other countries because of the physical impossibility of trying to test and treat everybody with symptoms.

They can't hold the games while there is still a danger of resurgence. Even a few active cases without a vaccine means the possibility of a recurrence. The games should be completely cancelled or postponed until in 2022.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There is some interesting information from both the Asahi and Kyodo polls.

First, both polls show PM Abe gaining support.

Asahi

According to the survey, 41 percent of respondents approve of the Abe Cabinet, up from 39 percent in the previous survey conducted in February, while the disapproval rate dropped from 40 percent to 38 percent.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13221870

Kyodo

the approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet rose to 49.7 percent from 41.0 percent in February.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/03/c44332182570-urgent-70-do-not-expect-tokyo-olympics-to-be-held-as-scheduled-kyodo-poll.html

Second, On school closures and events being called of

Asahi

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said such measures were “appropriate,” while 15 percent said they were “inappropriate.”

Kyodo

A total of 71.8 percent answered that the school closures aimed at preventing a further spread of the virus were appropriate or somewhat appropriate

On travel restrictions on South Korea and China

Asahi

 64 percent of respondents said the timing was “inappropriate,” while 26 percent said it was “appropriate.”

Kyodo

 83.1 percent supported the implementation of tougher border control measures 

Overall, it looks like PM Abe has the support of the people and for the most part, they agree with him.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

@Mika - You presented some facts from the article which are correct. The same articles also show the public overwhelmingly supports postponement or cancellation of the Olympics.

In this case Abe can be even more popular if he took swift and decisive action to postpone and announce he is putting all of the governments energy and resources into fighting and eliminating this virus.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"You presented some facts from the article which are correct. The same articles also show the public overwhelmingly supports postponement or cancellation of the Olympics. "

Yes, you are correct, the polls do show that public supports postponement or cancellation of the Olympics.

However, is it not interesting that he is gaining support during this crisis? In fact, he is the only world leader that is gaining support. To me, that is the story that was missed in the above article.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Everybody seems to be forgetting that it is not Abe's decision. The IOC will decide whether to cancel, postpone or go ahead as scheduled. I'm sure there have been many behind-the-scenes conversations this week between the IOC, JOC and Japanese government.

Today, the IOC is holding an emergency meeting with all members, so a decision may come soon.

Personally, I favor postponing until 2021 but they have to make a decision one way or another before torch relay starts on March 26. It would be ridiculous having the relay go through all prefectures if there are no Olympics this year.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The torch relay through Greece was cancelled because it was attracting crowds.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

smartacus is correct Japan will never cancel the games even if they are canceled THAT is for the IOC & also so Japan san "say" they were fully prepared to go ahead with the games but now "cant" because the IOC pulled the plug...…

b. I think that the uncertainty being shown right now makes people think that the Japanese government "elites" do not care about the public and only cares about not losing the Olympics.

Tokyo-Egnr  sadly the above has been true LONG before the games were awarded to Japan, the govt has NEVER cared about the man\woman on the street, not in the almost 30yrs I have been here & its been that way for 100s or years & counting imo.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Funny how people think the IOC has power over any foreign government to demand / order that the Olympics go on even if the hosting country decides it’s in its best interest to postpone it. Lol!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

unprecedented meeting with other G7 leaders by videoconference

Should be standard - would save huge amounts of taxpayers money and associated carbon footprint (travel of leaders, leaders goons, security etc)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

May I offer some insight as I work on the 2020 Olympics and other major events.

the IOC is the rightsholder of the Games and allows a Local organising committee to organize the Games under the IOC’s control. It is correct that the IOC can cancel or postpone the games but it is impossible for the IOC to organize them without the LOC, or the Japanese governments support. Which means that Japan’s LOC decides in practical terms if they are held or not. For now, LOC is in the driving seat and they should push for postponement. As, the IOC for legal and contract reasons might prefer cancellation.

2021 is indeed the rational and also positive solution. But 2022 is more difficult with Winter Olympics in Beijing and Worldcup football.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I think that Abe and Koike and others (including the IOC) have already resigned themselves to at least postponing, and possibly canceling the Games. But they are trying to appear hopeful so as to not completely destroy the Japanese economy. They want this corona virus to stabilize at least a bit more before they tell us that "it's just not possible to hold the Olympics"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At this stage J govt position is no more than political kabuki to save face.... by now Abe knows it is inevitable Olympics will not proceed as planned, however they will to the last moment maintain that Japan is ready and able to host the games as planned before asceeding to the inevitable ' international community and IOC wishes to postpone in the interest of public health, people,s welfare' etc etc...

Watch LDP spin it as the ' we care for the Japanese and international average Taro/ Joe welfare and we are postponing due to our concern for them. Please remember this at the next ballot box.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Above Tokyo it is addressing more fundamental issues. The current modern Olympics format -- a city host (with state support), huge global gatherings, fixed with no alternatives to a period due to commercial broadcasting rights, other excessive regulations and rights to property and ownership --- is proving vulnerable to the crisis like this corona outbreak.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

abe with not enough facilities and a danger to yr own people, pls cancel the olympics. Postphone it to 2023.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Also, how can G7 be behind U regarding the OLYMPICS when they are closing the borders of their own countries ???.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What you want is irrelevant, Mr. Abe. If the virus spreads, no amount of WANTING will stop it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Pls make it November or December, it's a win-win.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The head of the French Olympic Committee has said the virus must peak before May 31 for the games to go ahead.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200317_11/

If the virus situation will continue for "several months" as has been mentioned regarding other restrictions, the Olympics happening on time is looking very unlikely.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For broadcasting viewpoint, schedule delays of season openings for professional sports such as MLB may also affect the Olympics. In Tokyo, the gubernatorial election is to be held in July. If all technical issues can be cleared, I feel that the 2021 Games is a real possibility.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hell No we wont GO, to your olympics .

5 ( +7 / -2 )

It was just reported that the deputy head of Japan’s Olympic committee has tested positive for the virus. Maybe that will wake them up to how idiotic it is to expect the games to go ahead as planned is.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Quit postponing testing for the virus. This should be in the front of the line for things to do. Amazing that Abe has not declared an emergency like other countries around the world.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Kohzo Tashima, Japanese Olympic Committee's vice president, was tested positive for #COVID19 on Tuesday, Kyodo News reported. Tashima has reportedly traveled to the UK, the Netherlands and the US in Feb and March.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's just been announced that the football European Championship has been postponed until summer 2021.

Stop pretending the Olympics will go ahead.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Just shows the true and selfish nature of how japan operates - for them to still want to go through with the event is clearly selfish and greed. they will cancel other events for protections of royal members, but still promoting an event that will clearly spread a dangerous virus. no different how they operate with work. just a 'ganbare' go to work even if you are sick and spread it to everyone else. this post will get deleted by the moderators because they do not believe in free speech and anything that shows the dark and dangerous side of stuff coming from japan.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Mankind is going to defeat the virus?

My bets are on the the politcially correct virus destroying humankind, myself.

Maybe it's for the better.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

People, relax.

As I posted elsewhere, it doesn't matter if the games are on or not. Nobody will be able to get here, including the athletes and officials.

Look at the state of the airline industry. It is being predicted that most of the world's airlines will have gone bust by MAY. What happens to the bookings that people made years in advance?

The national carriers will likely be the few that remain.

And, by some miracle, they ALL rise from the ashes like a phoenx in time to transport all those people to Japan, what of the current travel restrictions on outward movements of people?

Will the whole world have lifted restrictions by then? This thing is only just getting started.

Notice, Japan is one of the few major nations that still doesn't have restrictions for incoming/outgoing visitors. Only people from two countries, Korea and China, are currently restricted, to 14 days self-isolation. Even this is not enforced in anyway.

Why is this even a discussion?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Sporting leagues around the globe are shutting down or postponing seasons or playing without spectators.

The Olympics should not go ahead this year. The cost in lives would be greater than the cost in Yen. It is not worth it.

Host it in 2021 if the worst is past, and perhaps by then a vaccine will be available for athletes, officials and spectators. Nobody will be able to compete at their highest while worrying about the virus.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Abe,is lying, all these leaders are worried about their own country ,not Japanese

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I did not find any article from Western Media supporting what Abe is claiming. Did anyone find such article indicating that all G7 leaders are behind Abe to support Olympic in July?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So wow, they’re saying this virus could last through July or August? Geez, and just when I thought a little while ago that we were on the cusp of stabilizing this whole thing.

if that’s the case, that this would last through July or August, then by all means postpone the Olympics. Yeah it’s a shame, and I was calling for caution as well, but with this new information, even I say postpone the Olympics.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So much for Japanese management. Cancel it

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Abe should have been out long ago, full-stop.  I never liked this man and or his Misses who thinks she is the second in command, and if he does not get a grip on what is taking place in all of the world right now and is willing to risk my life, my son's and all others' who live in this country for what????? Money? Really, the only right thing he has done is revoked all the Chinese visas and that of the Koreans and all of Europe should be included.  I think he country should put a full ban on from no people in and or out until this virus is squashed, full-stop.   Anyway, Abe should cancel this madness during this time of madness for safety for all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Typing to fast....I think all countries should put a full ban on from no people in and out until this virus is squashed, full-stop.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If they postpone American collegiate and professional football in addition to European football, broadcasters and advertisers like NBC might be open to have the olympic games in october because people will be so starved for sports.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Another thing to consider is that most Olympic venues tend to be smaller than football stadiums so flooding the venue with UV-C light at certain intervals or allowing spectators that can only show they were negative from covid testing to be allowed in could work. The city could also use the extra time of postponement to build a large quarantine center maybe at the old Tsukiji fish market.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A 9 month delay until Mar/Apr 2021, coinciding with 桜 would be the best option, leaving 3 years 4 months until the Paris Olympics. By thinking laterally, (yeah....I know), Japan can make lemonade out of lemons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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