Coates receives backlash saying the Olympics are on, no matter the virus

TOKYO (AP) – If John Coates was trying to stir up controversy, he succeeded.

Vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, Coates was asked a few days ago by a Japanese journalist during an online press conference whether the Tokyo Olympics would go ahead, even if the state of emergency was in force in Japan.

Coates replied, “Absolutely, yes.”

Coates said what the IOC and local organizers have been trying to convince the Japanese public for months: The postponed Olympics with 11,000 athletes from 200 countries and territories will open on July 23 and will be “safe and secure.”

But his provocative tone has sparked a backlash in Japan where 60 to 80 percent of polls say they don’t want the Olympics to open in two months amid a pandemic.

Just over 12,000 deaths in Japan – good by global standards, but bad in Asia – have been attributed to COVID-19. But Tokyo and Osaka and several other regions are under states of emergency until May 31. And it is likely that it will be extended.

There are fears that new variants will spread with only a tiny percentage of Japanese vaccinated. Estimates vary between 2% and 4%.

FILE – In this file photo from May 21, 2021, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto, left, and Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, right, listen to IOC Vice President John Coates (at l ‘screen), delivering a speech during the Tokyo 2020 IOC Coordination Commission press conference in Tokyo. Comments by Coates that the Tokyo Olympics will continue even though the city is under a state of emergency have sparked a backlash in Japan. Coates made this statement a few days ago. He reiterated what the IOC and local organizers were staying on, but his tone was almost defiant and made things happen. (Nicolas Datiche / Pool photo via AP, file)Nicolas Datiche / AP

“Right now, more than 80% of the country’s population want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled,” billionaire Japanese businessman Masayoshi Son said at the weekend. He is the founder and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. He also owns the SoftBank Hawks baseball team.

“Who is forcing this to move forward, and under what rights?” The son added.

Technically, the games belong to the International Olympic Committee and it alone has the power to cancel. Of course, any move will have to be negotiated with the Japanese organizers.

There is no indication that this will happen.

Social media criticized Coates and also lashed out at IOC President Thomas Bach, who has repeatedly said that everyone must “sacrifice themselves” to make the Olympics a success, which has already banned fans from the Olympics. ‘foreign. A decision on whether to involve local fans – if any – will be made next month.

The IOC relies on the sale of television rights for 75% of its revenue, and Japan has officially spent $ 15.4 billion to prepare the games. Government audits suggest this figure is much higher. Everything but $ 6.7 billion is public money.

Shukan Post magazine said in its latest issue that organizers have booked all rooms during the Olympics in at least four of Tokyo’s most expensive hotels. The magazine called the accommodations “proper or royal” to the IOC and others.

Tokyo Organizing Committee Chairman Seiko Hashimoto said on Friday that “the Olympic family, the IOC and international federations” would represent 23,000 visitors.

The magazine said the IOC would pay up to $ 400 per night for rooms, with local organizers making up any difference.

Many Japanese newspapers are among the more than 60 local Olympic sponsors who have donated more than $ 3 billion to local organizers. They were limited in their reviews.

Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, who is not a sponsor, called for a cancellation in an op-ed on Sunday.

“We are not in the mood to celebrate an event filled with fear and anxiety,” the newspaper said. “The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics should be canceled … The government must make a decision to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people.”

Organizers and the IOC say the games will be safe thanks to extensive testing and building a bubble around the athletes. It indicates that more than 80% of the inhabitants of the Olympic Village, located in Tokyo Bay, will be vaccinated.

The comments of Atsuko Saitoh, who identifies as a midwife and former university professor, are representative of the criticism on social media. She unsuccessfully ran for the upper house in Japan and is running for the next lower house elections.

“Bach and Coates do not value the lives of athletes, others involved, or people in the host country. It is tantamount to predicting terrorism to say that the games will be played in an emergency, despite overwhelming public opposition.


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