Japanese Official Says Canceling Tokyo Summer Olympics Is Still Possible amid Rise in COVID Cases

"If there is a surge in infections because of the Olympics, there will be no meaning to having the Olympics," the official said

Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Man in mask standing near Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty

Japanese officials have still not ruled out canceling the Tokyo Summer Olympics as the country grapples with a spike in COVID-19 cases nearly three months away from the start of the Games.

During an interview with Japan's TBS TV on Thursday, Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that should it seem "impossible to go on with the games," the Olympics must be "definitely canceled," the Associated Press reported.

"If there is a surge in infections because of the Olympics, there will be no meaning to having the Olympics," he said.

Nikai explained that hosting the Games is a "big opportunity" for Japan and it is important for the country to make it a success.

"We will have many issues to resolve and prepare, and it is important to take care of them one by one," he added.

"I think the question is how to do the Olympics in a way that is possible in this situation. That may mean there will probably be no spectators," added Taro Kono, who is in charge of the country's vaccine rollout. Kono also said it's likely the events will have to be held in empty venues.

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The International Olympic Committee has said the remain "committed" to the upcoming Summer Olympics.

"We do not speculate. We are fully concentrated and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic Games," an IOC spokesperson tells PEOPLE in a statement, adding that they are "
working at full speed towards the opening ceremony on 23 July."

According to the AP, Osaka — Japan's second-largest metropolitan area — has recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for three straight days. Meanwhile, Tokyo recorded 729 cases on Thursday, the highest level the capital has seen in more than two months.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Tokyo Summer Olympics logo. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty

Prime Minister Toshihide Suga hopes to move forward with preparations for the Games, sharing in a statement there was "no change to the government position to do everything to achieve safe and secure Olympics," according to the AP.

The Tokyo Olympics, postponed from last summer due to the ongoing pandemic, are currently scheduled to take place from July 23 through Aug. 8, 2021.

Overseas spectators have already been banned from the Games and Tokyo organizers expect to announce the number of fans allowed into each venue sometime this month.

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