Toshihiro Nikai is known for his frank comments, which come as many other ruling party lawmakers have avoided discussing the hot button issue of a possible cancellation.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay runners wearing protective masks wait inside a bus for their run at the Expo '70 Commemorative Park, without spectators and instead of on public roads due to Covid-19 outbreak, in Osaka, Japan April 14, 2021.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay runners wearing protective masks wait inside a bus for their run at the Expo '70 Commemorative Park, without spectators and instead of on public roads due to Covid-19 outbreak, in Osaka, Japan April 14, 2021. (Reuters)

A senior Japanese ruling party official says cancelling this year's Olympic Games is an option if the coronavirus crisis becomes too dire.

The statement was made during a television interview which will air on Friday, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday.

If rising coronavirus cases means "it is said to be impossible we would have to give up," Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party said.

"We need to cancel without hesitation if it's no longer possible. If infections spread because of the Olympics, I don't know what the Olympics is for," added Nikai.

"It's important for Japan to foster excitement with support from the public, and it's an opportunity."

The comments were reportedly made during the recording of a television programme.

"We definitely want to make it a success," he added, according to the daily, while warning "there are many issues to solve," he added.

Party heavyweight Nikai, a key backer of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is known for his frank comments, which come as many other ruling party lawmakers have avoided discussing the hot button issue of a possible cancellation.

"We'll hold (the Games) in a way that's feasible," Taro Kono, a popular minister in charge of Japan's vaccination drive, said on a separate TV programme, according to Kyodo News.

"That may be without spectators," he added.

The world's biggest sporting event has already been delayed by a year and is being held without international spectators.

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Worsening Covid-19 situation

Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections, with numbers trending higher in Tokyo after the government ended a state of emergency, and Osaka suffering a record number of cases.

The government is pushing ahead with preparations incorporating social distancing measures and restrictions on spectators for the Games set to begin on July 23, with a scaled back torch relay underway.

Olympic organisers insist the Games can be held safely and have released virus rulebooks to allay public fears.

They point out sporting events are continuing in Japan, but opinion polls show a majority of Japanese favour a postponement or cancellation of the Games.

Polls indicate little support in Japan for holding the Games during a global pandemic. "Canceling Olympics" was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday with nearly 300,000 tweets from users.

The comments comes as health experts have in the past day raised alarm at the infection spread and strain on the medical system.

Japan's top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, acknowledged the pandemic had entered a fourth wave, driven by mutant strains, with Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura urging in a magazine commentary that the Olympics be postponed.

Akira Koike, an opposition lawmaker with the Japanese Communist Party, reacted to Nikai's comments on Twitter saying holding the event is already "impossible" and a decision on cancellation should be made "quickly".

Cancellation or postponing the Games would probably not hurt Japan's economy much but would have a larger effect on Tokyo's service sector, a senior International Monetary Fund official said on Wednesday.

Olympic organisers and Japan's national Olympic committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies