Decision on holding Olympics ‘could go either way,’ says Japan’s Kono

The delayed Tokyo Olympics may not go ahead this summer as planned as the COVID-19 pandemic rages, a Japanese cabinet minister said on Thursday, saying the host needs to be ready for anything.

“We need to do the best we can to prepare for the games at this moment, but it could go either way,” Taro Kono, administrative and regulatory reform minister, said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference.

A global COVID-19 resurgence, including record infection levels in Japan, has raised fresh doubts about the games, which were postponed by one year in 2020. The government on Wednesday expanded its state of emergency well beyond the Tokyo region.

The Japanese public’s appetite for the sporting extravaganza has waned, with 77% of respondents in a survey this week saying it should be canceled or postponed. But the games — and the tourism dollars they bring — are a top priority for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Suga and others have said repeatedly the decision whether to go ahead rests with the International Olympic Committee and that their agreement to continue preparations stands.

“Anything is possible, but as the host of the games we need to do whatever we can, so that when it’s a ‘go,’ we can have a good Olympic Games,” Kono said. “The Olympic Committee must be thinking about Plan B, Plan C. But the situation is not easy.”

The U.S.-educated Kono, a former foreign and defense minister known for his outspoken views, has been open about his ambition to be prime minister.

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