U.S. Senator Mitt Romney has thrown his support behind the Tokyo Olympics this summer, saying the Games should be held with a limit on spectators at venues and would serve as an inspiration for the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Games set to open in less than six months’ time, Japan is wrestling with a third wave of novel coronavirus infections and has declared a state of emergency in major cities in a bid to tame the outbreak.
The International Olympic Committee and local organisers have pledged their full commitment to staging the event, though recent surveys show people in Japan largely oppose holding the Games this summer over fears the influx of athletes will worsen the pandemic.
“Hold the Tokyo Olympic Games,” 2012 Republican presidential nominee Romney tweeted.
“Athletes have trained a lifetime to be at their peak. Limit in-person spectators — most of us watch the Games on TV anyway. The world awaits the inspiration of great competition and global sportsmanship.”
Romney’s comments accompanied his tweet of a Wall Street Journal article quoting a Tokyo organising committee member as saying whether the Games are held as planned could come down to support from the United States and new President Joe Biden.
Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto told parliament on Wednesday that the decision to hold the Games this year had already been made.
“What’s undecided is how to host the Games safely. That’s what we are focusing on because unless we take steps on COVID-19, we can’t prepare to host the Games,” Hashimoto added.
Organisers have said they would make a decision on whether to allow spectators in venues by around March.
Nikkan Sports reported on Thursday the government was considering allowing only domestic ticket holders into venues.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Peter Rutherford)