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Tokyo Olympics Chief Declines to Rule Out Cancelation of Games

Germany's Margareta Kozuch stretches during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 20, 2021, in Tokyo.
Germany's Margareta Kozuch stretches during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 20, 2021, in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Olympics is set to open in three days, but the chief of the organizing committee declined Tuesday to rule out a last-minute cancelation if the number of COVID-19 cases among athletes continue to spike.

Toshiro Muto said at a news conference he is watching the infection numbers, with 71 coronavirus cases already reported since July 1 of people accredited to participate in the Games or be there in some capacity.

"We will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," Muto said. “At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."

But a spokesman for Tokyo 2020, so named for last year’s postponed Olympics, later said organizers were "concentrating 100% on delivering successful Games."

Some corporate sponsors have dropped plans to attend Friday’s opening ceremony, and because of the pandemic, no spectators will be at the athletic events, to minimize health risks.

Japan’s vaccination program has fallen short of most other developed nations. It has recorded more than 840,000 cases and 15,055 deaths. A surge in cases is being reported in Tokyo, with 1,387 new cases recorded Tuesday.

An Olympic "bubble" mandates frequent COVID-19 testing and is designed to limit participants' movements.

But Seiko Hashimoto, the organizing committee president, said at the news conference that safety measures designed to reassure the Japanese public had not necessarily done so, and she was aware that popular support for the Games had dropped.

"I really want to apologize from my heart for the accumulation of frustrations and concerns that the public has been feeling towards the Olympics," Hashimoto said.

Hashimoto said the public was concerned "because they feel that the current situation appears to show that the playbooks that were meant to guarantee security is not providing a sense of safety."

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said 68% of respondents in a poll expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they oppose the Games going ahead.

Several top athletes — American tennis star Coco Gauff, among them — have dropped out of the Games after testing positive for COVID-19 or for various injuries. This Thursday, a day before the official opening, the South African men’s soccer team could, because of coronavirus, struggle to field 11 players for its match against Japan.

Two members of Mexico's Olympic baseball team tested positive for COVID-19 at the team hotel before their departure for Tokyo, the country's baseball federation said Tuesday.

Some information in this report comes from Reuters and the AP.