Pre-Olympic training bases scrapped amid resurgent Covid cases in Japan
Japanese officials and Olympic organisers have been dealt another blow ahead of the rescheduled Games after a number of proposed training bases across the nation were cancelled.
With less than eight weeks to go until the start of the Games, scheduled for July 23 to August 8, the Olympic buzz continues to wane across Japan amid the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic, with the host city of Tokyo, as well as Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Aichi, Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima, remaining under state-of-emergency measures for a further three weeks.
Japan is still reporting more than 55,000 active Covid-19 cases with nearly 13,000 deaths being attributed to the virus as of Monday.
As a result of the continued uncertainty, a host of nations have opted to scrap plans for pre-Olympics training in Japan, while a number of the nation’s municipalities have also decided not to host countries before the Games.
Most of the cancellations so far have been in the 500 or so municipalities involved in the Olympics’ “host town” programme, in which foreign teams base their pre-Games training in Japanese facilities.
Among them, officials in Narita, east of Tokyo, were caught by surprise when the United States track and field team informed them it had decided to pull out of a planned training camp. About 120 athletes and staff, including star sprinter Justin Gatlin, were reportedly set to arrive for the camp.
In the central city of Toyota, Canadian swimmers and coaches have also pulled out of pre-Olympics training scheduled to be held over three weeks in July.
Australia's judo team also decided against training in Japan ahead of the Games over safety concerns, while some 42 Russian gymnasts and coaches have decided not to travel to the city of Kamo, which had spent a reported $640,000 on upgrading training facilities.
In other cases, such as a delegation from Cuba set to stay in Higashimatsuyama city north of Tokyo, the municipalities decided not to host.
Despite the latest setback and continued overwhelming public pessimism, organisers are determined not to consider the prospect of cancelling the Games.
Organisers have announced a number of safety measures, including not permitting foreign spectators to attend, but local polls continue to show increasing wariness from the public.
An opinion survey conducted in mid-May by local media showed 59 per cent of respondents wanted the Games cancelled altogether as opposed to 39 per cent who said they should be held. Another “postponement" was not offered as an option.
A separate poll conducted at the weekend by a different news agency found 65 per cent wanted the Games cancelled or postponed again. Almost 415,000 people have also signed a petition to cancel the Games since it was launched last month.