TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday called for sports and cultural events to be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks as the country battles to stem coronavirus contagion amid mounting concerns the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be cancelled.

Abe’s call came after a Tokyo baseball team said it would play games in an empty stadium this weekend, while two businesses in central Tokyo reported confirmed cases of infection a day after the government urged companies to recommend staff consider working from home.

“Taking into account that the next one to two weeks are extremely important in stopping the spread of infection, the government considers there to be a large risk of transmission at sports, cultural events and large gatherings of people,” Abe said in parliament.

Japan has at least 164 cases of infections from the coronavirus, apart from 691 reported from a cruise ship docked south of Tokyo. The government has shifted strategy in fighting the contagion, seeking to slow its expansion and minimize the number of deaths – now five – rather than stopping it completely, now seen as impossible.

Earlier on Wednesday the minister in charge of the Olympics sought to quell fears the Olympics could be cancelled.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound said earlier the Games would more likely be cancelled than postponed or moved should the virus threat enforce any change in schedule, the Associated Press reported, with a decision necessary by May.

“The IOC is preparing for the Tokyo Games as scheduled,” Minister Seiko Hashimoto said in parliament when asked about Pound’s comment. “We will continue our preparations so that the IOC can make sound decisions.”

In a briefing with reporters, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he had been told by the IOC that Pound’s comment that any cancellation decision would be made in May was not the IOC’s official stance.

Officials have consistently denied the Olympics will be postponed or cancelled. But Tokyo has been forced to postpone training for volunteers, with large scale gatherings like March’s Tokyo Marathon already voluntarily curtailed or halted altogether.

Meanwhile the Yomiuri Giants baseball said on its website it would stage planned preseason games versus cross-town rival the Yakult Swallows at its Tokyo Dome stadium, but with no fans in the building.

Separately the national sumo association told Reuters a board meeting would be held on March 1 to discuss whether to proceed with its spring tournament, due to start in Osaka on March 8. Japan’s professional soccer league has already called off all domestic games through the first half of March.

The growing shadow over the Olympics came as Dentsu Group Inc, an advertising giant deeply involved in the Games, told employees to work at home after a confirmed coronavirus case at its central Tokyo headquarters. Its shares in slid to a seven-year low amid the concerns about the Games.

In another confirmed case, property developer Mitsubishi Estate Co said one of its skyscrapers in the Marunouchi business district had been visited by a person with the virus.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

More backtracking: Russian Olympic pair win appeals against doping bans

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland ruled that “none of the acts alleged to have [been] committed by these two athletes had been established to its comfortable satisfaction and beyond the mere suspicion of a potential ADRV [anti-doping…

Is winning enough for Mourinho’s Tottenham?

Jose Mourinho considered football’s return a “public service”, a piercing shot of distraction, lifting us from our living rooms and into hollow stadiums. But, then, is there not also a vague sense of duty, an obligation even, to entertain? Since…

‘Delete your account’: Fans turn on Tom Brady after NFL idol touts ‘IMMUNITY blend’ supplements amid COVID-19 deaths (VIDEO)

Brady took the opportunity to promote his TB12 Sports company’s new multivitamin supplement during the pandemic, using words that have become synonymous with advice from doctors during the crisis to advocate the blend. Selling a 30-day supply of 60 tablets…

How Salah became the pride of Egypt

“Many coaches will say that they made him famous but I know it was down to me,” insists Said El Shishiny. The man who first met Mohamed Salah when he was a slight teenager playing for El Mokawloon’s Under-16 side…