Olympic chief’s visit to Japan postponed due to virus

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Tokyo (AFP)

The head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has been forced to postpone a visit to Japan, the Games organizing committee said on Monday, as cases of the virus increased less than three months before the Tokyo Games.

Bach’s trip was scheduled for May 17-18, but organizers “decided to postpone it due to various situations, including the extension of the viral state of emergency” by the Japanese government.

The Japanese government and Olympic officials insist the virus-postponed Games can be safely held this summer, although polls show most Japanese support the cancellation or some other delay.

Japanese media reported that organizers plan to postpone Bach’s visit until June.

The state of emergency in Japan, which is less strict than general closures in other countries, has been extended until the end of May in the hardest-hit regions, including Tokyo.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Games, said on Friday that it would be “very difficult” to organize the visit given the state of emergency.

The Covid-19 epidemic in Japan remains much lower than in many countries, with around 10,800 deaths.

But the rollout of its vaccine is progressing slowly and some regions have seen record cases as more infectious variants lead to new waves of contagion.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was forced on the defensive on Monday, telling parliament he “never put the Olympics first” and that his priority remains “the life and health of the Japanese people”.

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