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Tokyo Olympic Games face cancellation as COVID cases rise to 71, more sponsors pull out

  • Organisers refuse to rule out cancelling the controversial Games due to kick off on Friday, a year after being delayed due to COVID
  • Petition with 140,000 signatures calling for the games to be called off presented to Japanese government Tuesday
  • Rising public anger at the hosting as COVID cases linked to Games rise to 71, with infections among athletes
  • Four sponsors have now ruled themselves out of attending the Opening Ceremony due to public anger at the Games

Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have refused to rule out cancelling the event just three days before it is due to start amid concern over rising Covid cases. 

Toshiro Muto, head of the organising committee, was asked directly at a press conference on Tuesday whether the showpiece event – which has cost Japan some £12 billion – could still be called off, and refused to rule it out.

It comes as the number of Covid cases linked to the Games rose to 71 with infections in Athletes’ Village, and three more sponsors announced they will not be sending representatives to the Opening Ceremony due to anger at the event going ahead. 

At least one of those cases – among a member of the Ugandan weightlifting team – has the highly-infectious Delta form of Covid, and Japan has also warned about the variant’s spread among the general population.

Meanwhile, a public petition of 140,00 signatures was handed to the Japanese government today calling for the competition to be called off and for the athletes to be send home in a bid to stave off the threat of creating a super-spreader event. 

The Tokyo Opening Ceremony is due to take place on Friday after a year of delays caused by the Covid pandemic. 

Toshiro Muto, head of the Tokyo organising committee, was asked at a press conference whether the Games could still be called off and said meetings will take place later this weekJapan is seeing a spike in Covid amid rapid spread of the Delta variant, with at least one confirmed case among the 71 Covid cases linked to the Olympics so far

Japan is seeing a spike in Covid amid rapid spread of the Delta variant, with at least one confirmed case among the 71 Covid cases linked to the Olympics so far

Opening Ceremony composer quits over historic bullying claims 

Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese musician known to fans as Cornelius, has been forced to step down from his role scoring the Opening Ceremony after historic bullying claims resurfaced.

Oyamada, 52, told two separate music magazines during interviews in the 1990s that he bullied classmates of Korean descent, one of whom had Down Syndrome.

The bullying ranged from trapping one boy in a cardboard box to making another eat feaces and masturbate in front of other pupils.

The interviews came to light at the weekend with Oyamada issuing an apology that was initially accepted by organisers – before they reversed that decision and cut ties with him.

Oyamada is the second high-profile resignation of the Tokyo Olympics, after oragnising committee president Yoshiro Mori stepped down in February after making disparaging comments about women.

Mori had complained that women ‘talk too much’ and that boardroom meetings with lots of female CEOs would ‘take too long.’ 

But Muto put that in doubt on Tuesday, telling reporters: ‘We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. 

‘So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases.

‘We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.’

A spokesman for Tokyo 2020 later said organisers were ‘concentrating 100% on delivering successful Games’. 

COVID-19 cases are rising in Tokyo rising and the Games, postponed last year because of the pandemic, will be held without spectators. 

Japan this month decided that participants would compete in empty venues to minimise the risk of further infections. 

Muto, a former top financial bureaucrat with close ties to Japan’s ruling party, is known for his careful choice of words, while organisers are facing a domestic public angry about coronavirus restrictions and concerned over a possible spike in cases triggered by Games attendees arriving from abroad.

Speaking at a closed-door meeting of the International Olympics Committee in Tokyo on Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga acknowledged that there are ‘great difficulties’ facing the world and the Games but said he is determined for the event to be a ‘success’. 

‘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 toward 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.

He spoke as the number of cases linked to the Games rose to 71, after 13 positive tests were reported on Monday.

They include two athletes – Czech volleyball player Ondrej Perusic who was staying at the Athletes’ Village in Tokyo and US gymnast Kara Eaker staying at a training camp in Chiba prefecture.

Both are now in a 14-day quarantine which for Perusic will cover all three of his scheduled games with partner David Schweiner.

Another case affected an unnamed ‘games-concerned personnel’, a category that includes team coaches and staffers. 

Officials said the person is staying in Tokyo but not at the Athletes’ Village.

The other positive tests were spread out across Japan and included Games contractors and a volunteer.

In Mexico, two members of the country’s baseball team tested positive before their departure, the country’s baseball federation said on Tuesday.

The athletes, Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis, who tested positive on July 18, have been isolated, as have all team members pending results of more tests, it said.

It comes against the backdrop of Covid cases rising in Japan overall as a fourth wave of infection driven by the Delta variant hits, with Tokyo in a state of emergency and large gatherings banned.

Tokyo on Tuesday reported more than 1,300 Covid cases, up from 550 a week ago. 

This story first appeared in Daily Mail,

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