Japan's Abe says G7 supports
'complete' Games, polls back postponement
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[March 17, 2020]
By Chang-Ran Kim and Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that Group of Seven leaders had
agreed to support a "complete" Olympics, but dodged questions about
whether any of the leaders had brought up the possibility of
His comments come as concerns mount about whether the Games can
proceed as planned now that the rapidly spreading coronavirus
pandemic has brought business and social activity in countries
across the world to a standstill and panic to financial markets.
A fresh domestic poll showed most Japanese believe the Games should
However, the Olympic torch relay will start in Japan as planned
later this month, Tokyo Organising Committee CEO Toshiro Muto said
on Tuesday. But parts of it will be closed to the public and some
events cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The so-called "grand start" of the relay due to begin in Fukushima
prefecture, hit by the March 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster,
will take place on March 26 but without spectators, Muto said.
In an unprecedented meeting with other G7 leaders by videoconference
to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, Abe said he had told them: "We
are doing everything in our power to prepare (for the Games), and we
want to aim for a complete event as proof that mankind can defeat
the new coronavirus."
When pressed at a briefing about whether there had been discussion
of a delay, Abe repeated the same line.
Interpreting Abe's comments at a news conference hours later,
Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said a "complete" event referred
to holding the Games this summer as scheduled, with spectators
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also dodged a question
about the timing of the Games, repeating the government's stance
that it continued to work with the International Olympic Committee,
organising members and the Tokyo government on preparations.
An Asahi newspaper poll published on Tuesday showed 63% of people
across Japan said the games should be postponed, while 23% said they
should be held as planned. A similar poll by Kyodo News published on
Monday showed almost 70% of respondents do not think Tokyo will be
able to host the gathering as planned.
Tokyo Games chief Muto said: "There is a possibility these public
opinions can shift as the situation is changing ahead" referring to
At the G7 video conference, leaders committed to doing "whatever is
necessary" to battle the coronavirus pandemic and to work together
more closely to protect public health, jobs and growth, and issued a
statement promising to address the health and economic risks.
[to top of second column]
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks with other G7 leaders during
a video conference at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan March
16, 2020, in this photo released by Japan's Cabinet Public Relations
Office via Kyodo March 17, 2020.Mandatory credit Japan's Cabinet
Public Relations Office via Kyodo/via REUTERS
John Coates, the IOC's point man for the Tokyo Games, told
Australia's Fairfax media that there was no need to make a call on
the Games by May, as IOC committee member Dick Pound had previously
"The IOC didn't recognise any dates that Dick came up with and I
think Dick backed off that as well," Coates, the IOC Coordination
Commission chairman was quoted as saying in the report. "It's all
proceeding to start on the 24th of July."
The virus has infected almost 180,000 people and killed over 7,000
worldwide, with the epicentre now in Europe. Sports competitions
have come to a halt in Europe, hampering athletes' preparations.
Further stoking those concerns, the head of the French Olympic
Committee said on Monday the pandemic must have reached its peak and
be on the wane by the end of May for the Tokyo Olympics to be staged
U.S. President Donald Trump has said the worst of the virus could be
over by July or August, a more specific and lengthier timeframe than
he has previously suggested.
For the torch relay, the organizing committee's CEO Muto proposed
fans watch the event via live web broadcast, and asked anyone who is
not well not to come to the relay route.
"If it's overcrowded in the big streets, runners may face changes,"
he said regarding the possibility of replacing torch bearers more
Greece's Olympic Committee last week cancelled the remainder of the
Olympic Torch relay through the country to avoid attracting crowds
that could raise the risk of virus contagion.
The Olympics are due to run from July 24 to Aug. 9.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Rocky Swift, Ju-min
Park and Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Edwina Gibbs
and Hugh Lawson)
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