Emperor Naruhito Covid-19 statement, Imperial Palace

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The Emperor of Japan has made a rare public announcement to voice his fears for the Tokyo Olympics.

Emperor Naruhito has revealed to the world he is “extremely worried” about the Olympics and Paralympics accelerating the spread of Covid-19.

The Games have been a disaster for Tokyo following the postponement last year as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the host nation while the cost to host the event have risen to more than $20 billion.

Hosting the biggest athletic spectacle on the planet in such a climate has been met with open outrage by Japanese people.

A Kyodo News poll earlier this year found 80 per cent of Japanese citizens want the Games cancelled or delayed.

The IOC and Tokyo Organising Committee have pressed ahead and the Games are scheduled to begin as first announced from July 23.

With the country already divided over the hosting of the Games, Emperor Naruhito’s new statement is a powerful voice casting further doubt over the decision for the Games to continue.

Grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, Yasuhiko Nishimura, said in a news conference Friday morning (AEST) that the Emperor has voiced concerns.

“His majesty is extremely worried about the current situation of the COVID-19 infections,” Nishimura said.

“While there are voices of unease among the public, I believe (the emperor) is concerned that holding the Olympics and Paralympics … may lead to the expansion of the infections.”

His statement comes at a time when a new poll showed the majority of Japanese people still want the Games to be cancelled at a time when Olympics spirit is normally whipping the host city into an excited frenzy.

The Asahi survey showed 32 per cent still want the Games to be cancelled altogether and 30 per cent want the games to be delayed again.

The poll shows a mild increase of support for the Games to go ahead.

The shift in sentiment will be welcome news for organisers, who are expected to announce later Monday how many local fans, if any, will be in the stands for the Games.

That rule is scheduled to be in place until July 11, after which the cap will expand to 10,000 people or 50 per cent capacity.

Japan has seen a comparatively small virus outbreak, with around 14,500 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns.



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