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Japanese Towns Refusing to Host Olympic Athletes Out of Covid Fears

Japanese Towns Refusing to Host Olympic Athletes Out of Covid Fears

Dozens of Japanese towns have abandoned plans to host Olympic athletes because of concern they will overburden stretched medical resources amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, Reuters has reported.

Reuters has quoted a report in the Nikkei newspaper today, May 13, where 40 of more than 500 towns scheduled to welcome international competitors have decided not to accept athletes for training camps or cultural exchanges before the Olympics start on July 23.

The decision by the towns reflects the growing sense of unease in Japan at hosting the Olympics. Recent polls suggest a majority of Japanese want the Olympics cancelled or postponed.

The U.S. track and field team has cancelled its training camp in the eastern prefecture of Chiba, while officials in Okuizumo said they were no longer in a position to host India’s hockey team for pre-Games training.

Chiba Governor Toshihito Kumagai said the prefecture would not guarantee hospital beds for athletes as they should not be given preferential treatment.

“Chiba prefecture is not thinking about securing scarce hospital beds … for athletes and people involved in the Olympic Games in a way that would prohibit our residents from using them,” Kumagai told reporters.

The International Olympic Committee is insisting that the Games will still go ahead, with one official, John Coates, admitted that while public sentiment was a concern he could imagine no scenario under which the games would not go ahead.

IOC president Thomas Bach was meant to visit Japan this week but his visit has been delayed until June, with Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto admitting that it would be “difficult” for Bach to visit while Japan is in a state of emergency.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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