Ready or not, here come the Tokyo Olympics.
And Japanese Emperor Naruhito is in the “not” camp, it seems, as the capital city tries to complete preparations for hosting the one-year-delayed Games during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Naruhito’s stance was made known on Thursday during a news conference.
“His majesty is extremely worried about the current situation of the COVID-19 infections,” said Yasuhiko Nishimura, grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency.
“While there are voices of unease among the public, I believe (the emperor) is concerned that holding the Olympics and Paralympics … may lead to the expansion of the infections.”
With the Opening Ceremony fewer than 30 days away, fears of spreading the infection during the July 23-Aug. 8 Games remain prominently on the minds of the country’s leaders.
The Tokyo Paralympics begin later in August.
Although there are significant restrictions in place concerning attendance at the Tokyo events, there will be thousands of athletes, journalists, sponsors and assorted others arriving soon.
In Tokyo, public sentiment along with health experts have indicated a general preference to cancel or trigger another postponement of the Games, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is determined to proceed.
Naruhito, whose words engender respect from the Japanese, is a symbolic leader with no political power to cancel or postpone the Games.
Vaccinations are well behind the numbers in the West, and two recent positive tests coming from the Ugandan Olympic team training in western Japan have fanned the flames.
Suga recently lifted Tokyo’s state of emergency, an order that had been in place since late April, but an Associated Press report cited health officials having seen an increase in COVID-19 cases since the state of emergency was lifted.