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Most in Japan oppose holding Olympics in 2021: polls

TOKYO: A majority of Japanese people oppose holding the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics next year, favouring a further delay or outright cancellation of the massive event, new polling showed Tuesday.

The new data shows public sentiment has shifted little since the summer, when surveys in Japan also found only a minority backing plans to hold the Games next year, despite the imminent arrival of new vaccines.

A poll released Tuesday by national broadcaster NHK found just 27 percent of respondents support holding the Games next year, with 32 percent backing cancellation and 31 percent favouring a further postponement.

The remaining respondents said they were unsure or gave no answer.

Olympic organisers and Japanese officials have ruled out any further delay of the Games, which are the first in history to be postponed during peacetime.

They have insisted Tokyo 2020 can be held even if the pandemic is not under control by the new opening date of July 23, 2021.

But the Japanese public do not appear convinced.

A poll published on Monday by the Jiji press agency similarly found 21 percent favouring a cancellation and nearly 30 percent a further delay.

And a Kyodo news agency poll published December 6 also found a total of 61.2 percent opposed to holding the Games next year.

The figure comes with just over seven months to go until the postponed Games are scheduled to open.

The start of vaccination campaigns in some parts of the world has boosted the confidence of organisers that the Games can go ahead, though innoculation will not be mandatory for athletes or spectators.

But even as the vaccines are being rolled out, new waves of the virus are surging in many places, including Japan, which has seen a comparatively low toll from the outbreak, recording fewer than 2,600 deaths so far.

Postponing the Games and devising coronavirus countermeasures has proved a logistical nightmare for organisers, and carries a steep price tag.

The delay and health measures will add at least an extra $2.4 billion to the existing $13 billion budget for the Games.

Organisers are due to release an updated budget later this month, but their figures for the cost have been hotly disputed, with an audit report last year estimating the national government spent nearly 10 times its original budget between 2013-2018.

Organisers countered that the estimate included items not directly related to the Games.

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.