Two new polls show that 80% of the Japanese public believe the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics should be postponed or canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The polls were conducted by the Tokyo Broadcasting System and Kyodo News.
The poll results come as Japan battles a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has strained the nation’s hospital system and forced Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to declare a state of emergency.
Despite the public’s skepticism, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers still plan to open the Olympics on July 23 and the Paralympics on Aug. 24. The events were originally scheduled to begin in July 2020, but they were delayed a year because of the pandemic.
For the TBS poll, researchers asked 1,261 people if the Olympics can be held. They found that 81% of respondents said “no.” In a similar poll conducted in December, only 63% of respondents answered “no.”
For the Kyodo poll, researchers asked 715 random eligible voters if the Olympics should be canceled or rescheduled. They found that 80.1% of respondents said “yes.” A similar poll in December found that only 63% thought the Olympics shouldn’t take place.
Japan, which has a population of 126 million people, has reported approximately 3,800 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Some people believe that hosting the world’s largest multisport event could lead to another surge in COVID-19 infections.
Approximately 15,000 athletes are expected to participate in this year’s Olympics and Paralympics. The events will also draw thousands of coaches, officials, judges, sponsors, journalists and broadcasters. It is not yet known if spectators will be allowed to attend.
The IOC is reportedly pushing to get all Olympic athletes vaccinated for COVID-19 ahead of July’s opening ceremony.
Officially, Japan has spent $15.4 billion to host the Olympics. However, government reports indicate the country has spent closer to $25 billion.
In 2011, U.S.-based NBC agreed to pay $4.38 billion to broadcast every Olympics through the Tokyo Games. In 2014, the network agreed to pay $7.75 billion to extend its broadcast rights through the 2032 Olympics.
The IOC receives 91% of all broadcast and sponsorship revenue generated by the Olympics.