Japan’s PM says world should see safe Olympics

July 21, 2021
Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga
Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga


The world needs to see that Japan can stage a safe Olympics, the country's prime minister ((PM) told sports officials yesterday.

Tens of thousands of athletes, officials, games staff and media are arriving in Japan amid a local state of emergency and widespread opposition from the general public.

Events start today -- in softball and women's football -- two days ahead of the formal opening ceremony of an Olympics already postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The world is faced with great difficulties," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told International Olympic Committee members in a closed-door meeting at a five-star hotel in Tokyo, adding "we can bring success to the delivery of the Games".

"Such fact has to be communicated from Japan to the rest of the world," Suga said through an interpreter. "We will protect the health and security of the Japanese public."

He acknowledged Japan's path through the pandemic towards the Olympics had gone "sometimes backward at times".

"But vaccination has started and after a long tunnel an exit is now in our sight," Suga said.

The PM's office said on Monday more than 21 per cent of Japan's 126 million population has been inoculated.

Health experts in Japan have questioned allowing so many international visitors for the Games, which end on August 8. There will be no local or foreign fans at events. The Paralympics will follow in late August.

Praising vaccine manufacturers for working on a dedicated Olympic roll-out, IOC President Thomas Bach singled out Pfizer BioNTech for "a truly essential contribution".

This cooperation meant "85 per cent of Olympic Village residents and 100 per cent of IOC members present here have been either vaccinated or are immune" to COVID-19, Bach said.

About 75 of the 101 IOC members were in the room for their first in-person meeting since January 2020. Their previous two meetings, including to re-elect Bach in March, were held remotely.

The IOC leader praised his hosts yesterday, saying "billions of people around the world will follow and appreciate the Olympic Games."

"They will admire the Japanese people for what they achieved," Bach said, insisting the Games will send a message of peace, solidarity and resilience.

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