Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday he regretted having to take all the flak for holding the Summer Olympics during a pandemic as his government was reported to favor allowing domestic spectators into stadiums to watch.
Tokyo 2020, already postponed by a year, has faced strong opposition from the public, medical experts and some former athletes amid a fourth wave of infections.
Suga's comments appeared to illustrate tensions bubbling to the surface as the government bolsters its assurances to the world that the Games will be safe when they start on July 23.
He was speaking in response to comments at a Diet session from an opposition lawmaker, who said the prime minister had been coming under attack over holding the Games during the COVID-19 pandemic when the host city governor, Yuriko Koike, should be weighing in.
"I'm very glad you said what I want to say," Suga replied. "Even though I tried to make that point, Diet discussions conclude that all the responsibilities should be taken by the prime minister.
"I am not trying to run away from my responsibilities, but I feel it is regrettable that this is the direction of the debate in the Diet."
Koike was not immediately available for comment.
Government officials and Olympics organizers are in favor of holding the Games with local spectators as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out and case numbers decline, the Asahi newspaper reported, without citing sources.
The prime minister's office declined to comment.
Popular Japanese singer Yuzo Kayama became the latest celebrity withdrawing from the Olympics torch relay, saying he was not happy about holding the Games given current conditions around the world, Kyodo news reported
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Wednesday said some athletes she has met are "so excited to be able to participate in the Games" despite some of the most difficult circumstances ever seen for a modern Olympics.© Thomson Reuters 2021.