The Tokyo Olympics should be postponed, according to a senior member of the Japan Olympic Committee, adding her voice to a growing chorus calling for Tokyo 2020 to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It should be postponed under the current situation where athletes can’t be well prepared,” Kaori Yamaguchi, a JOC executive board member, told the Nikkei daily in an interview published on Friday.
Yamaguchi, who won a bronze medal for judo at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is the first JOC board member to call openly for a postponement of the Tokyo Games.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly 10,000 globally and played havoc with the international sporting calendar, raising doubts about whether the Games can open as scheduled on July 24.
Organisers have scrapped qualifiers and scaled back test events, while many countries have imposed travel bans.
The International Olympic Committee, which will take the final decision on whether to proceed as scheduled, has voiced its commitment to the Games going ahead.
Yamaguchi criticised the IOC stance, saying the body “is putting athletes at risk.”
“By asking them to train under these conditions, the IOC is opening itself up the criticism that it is not putting athletes first,” Yamaguchi told the newspaper.
“Unlike other sporting events, the Olympics symbolise the ideal that sports bring about world peace,” she said.
The Olympics should not be held “if people across the world can’t enjoy themselves,” she said.
“What I’m most scared of is that we force an opening and have people question the Olympics, asking, ‘Why only the Olympics’?” she said.
She also urged the IOC to at least set a deadline for its final decision.
Yamaguchi said she plans to argue her position when the JOC meets Friday next week, the business daily added.
Her comments came as the Olympic flame was landing in Japan to a muted reception as organisers have scaled back events surrounding the torch relay due to the virus.