Japanese towns drop plans to host Olympic athletes

This is the latest sign of deep unease in Japan over the scheduling of the Games

Forty of more than 500 towns registered to welcome international competitors have decided not to accept athletes for training camps and cultural exchanges before the upcoming Olympics in Japan. File photograph: EPA

Forty of more than 500 towns registered to welcome international competitors have decided not to accept athletes for training camps and cultural exchanges before the upcoming Olympics in Japan. File photograph: EPA

 

Dozens of Japanese towns have abandoned plans to host Olympic athletes because of concern they will overburden stretched medical resources amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Thursday.

Forty of more than 500 towns registered to welcome international competitors had decided not to accept athletes for training camps and cultural exchanges before the global sporting showpiece, the newspaper reported, citing a government source.

The reluctance of some towns to host visiting athletes, normally a source of pride for communities outside the host city, is the latest sign of deep unease in Japan over the scheduling of the Games in the middle of a pandemic.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed last year and are scheduled to take place from July 23rd to August 8th despite a state of emergency in the host city.

Other regions scheduled to host athletes have also been hard hit, including the eastern prefecture of Chiba, where the US track and field team had been due to have a training camp. The prefecture reported on Wednesday that the team had cancelled those plans.

Chiba governor Toshihito Kumagai said the prefecture would not guarantee hospital beds for athletes as they should not be given preferential treatment.

“Chiba prefecture is not thinking about securing scarce hospital beds . . . for athletes and people involved in the Olympic Games in a way that would prohibit our residents from using them,” Kumagai told reporters.

Shiro Hasegawa, an official in Okuizumo town, said it was no longer possible to host India’s hockey team for pre-Games training as planned.

“There’s limited time and cost issues and it is impossible to have exchange activities between residents and athletes,” he told Reuters.

Overseas athletes will also not participate in a test event for the Olympics BMX freestyle cycling, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

Mixed feelings

Masters golf champion Hideki Matsuyama also said on Wednesday he had “mixed feelings” about the Olympics, after top women’s tennis player, Naomi Osaka, raised concerns.

“Japan is seeing a lot of new infections now and is going through a tough time, so I can’t imagine just blindly pushing the Olympics forward,” Matsuyama said at a news conference.

The government has been criticised with only 2.8 per cent of the population inoculated, the lowest rate among wealthy countries.

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