SINGAPORE — There has been much debate over whether the Tokyo Olympics will be held in Japan later this year, after being postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19.
Recent opinion polls show that the majority of people in Japan — about 80% of those surveyed — do not want the Tokyo Olympics to be held this summer. They fear that the influx of athletes will spread the virus even more, according to Reuters.
Speculation was reignited last week after The Times in the U.K. reported, citing a source, that the Japanese government had privately concluded the Games would have to be cancelled due to the pandemic. The government flatly denied the report, saying there was “no truth” to it.
Takeshi Niinami, chief executive of beverage giant Suntory Holdings — who is also a prominent economic advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga — told CNBC on Tuesday that some conditions must be met for the Olympics to be held in Japan this year.
“Those policies should be implemented (as soon as possible), so that we can … hold and host the Olympic Games,” Niinami said.
Asked what conditions need to be met in order to restore confidence that the Olympics can be held as planned on July 23, he listed four.
1. To control current spread of cases
Japan has to curb the current Covid-19 spread, including asymptomatic cases, and quarantine them “stringently,” Niinami said.
The country has been severely hit by a recent resurgence of cases, and Tokyo and other major cities in the country under a state of emergency.
2. People have to wear contact-tracing devices
People have to “agree to wear and get the contact-tracing devices through smartphones,” said Niinami.
Japan launched a coronavirus smartphone contact-tracing app last June, which uses bluetooth signals to detect contact with nearby users. If a user later tests positive, their contacts can be traced and notified.
While there have been privacy concerns, according to Japanese media Kyodo News, the government has reassured people the app does not collect personally identifiable data.
3. Vaccine rollout must begin
The rollout of the vaccine has to start from February as scheduled. “That is a must,” he said.
4. Experiment with other major events
The country has to experiment holding big events, such as professional baseball games, according to Niinami.
Despite Japan’s denial that the Tokyo Olympics would be called off, officials including Niinami cast doubt in early January about whether the Games would be held.
Niinami told Reuters he was unsure whether the Olympics could be held as planned. Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, told BBC he “can’t be certain” that the Games would go on “because the ongoing elephant in the room” would be a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
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