Azusa Iwashimizu (R), member of the Japanese women's national football team, passes the Olympic flame to high school student Asato Owada at a torch "kiss point" during the torch relay grand start at J-Village National Training Centre in Naraha, Fukushima-Prefecture, Japan on March 25, 2021. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
April 15 (UPI) -- With less than 100 days to go before the start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a senior Japanese official said Thursday that the Games could realistically be canceled if surging COVID-19 cases aren't brought under control.
The Summer Games were supposed to take place last year but were postponed, for the first time in history, after the coronavirus outbreak. Rising cases in Japan and elsewhere in Asia are now again threatening the quadrennial event.
Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Thursday that canceling the Games is a viable option and that making such a decision will depend on how Japan handles the latest surge.
"I don't know what the Olympics would be for," Nikai, a key supporter of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, said. "We would have to give it up decisively if we reach the point we can no longer hold the games [safely]."
Japan Medical Association Chairman Toshio Nakagawa called on the government to take quick action against the new growth of the virus.
"I believe that it is the fourth wave of infections, with the waves getting higher and higher," Nakagawa said Wednesday, according to Asahi Shimbun. "Declaring a state of emergency early may be needed as a pre-emptive move to slow the spread, depending on the extent of the prevalence. If a state of emergency must be issued, it will be more effective to announce it sooner than later."
Japanese officials are still planning to put on the Summer Games, which are scheduled to begin July 23. The Olympic torch run has begun its relay through various Japanese cities to build support and excitement for the event.
Canceling the Games is a trending topic on social media, with more than 35,000 posts on Twitter.
Wednesday marked 100 days until the start of the games, which are scheduled to run through August 8.
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka lights the flame of hope in the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on July 23. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo