Japan Resistance to Olympics Seeing Signs of Easing, Polls Show

An athlete competes during a para athletics test event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Japan Resistance to Olympics Seeing Signs of Easing, Polls Show

The Japanese public’s opposition to holding the Tokyo Olympics may be weakening, according to two new polls, as athletes begin to arrive in the country and the pace of vaccinations starts to pick up.

A poll by the conservative Yomiuri newspaper found 50% of respondents said the event should go ahead in July, a rise from 39% in a similar survey carried out by the paper last month. The proportion who said the Games should be canceled dropped to 48% from 59%.

Japan’s inoculation drive began to pick up pace in recent weeks as mass vaccination centers opened and as more medical professionals were permitted to administer the shots. Some athletes including the Australian softball team began arriving in Japan as well, under tight restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

Japan Resistance to Olympics Seeing Signs of Easing, Polls Show

While Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has tried to tout the staging of the Olympics as proof that the world has defeated the coronavirus, many Japanese have been concerned that it could instead become a superspreader event.

Although the pace of vaccination has increased, only a small percentage of the population has been vaccinated, leaving the vast majority still vulnerable to infection. The health care system is strained in some areas of the country, and Tokyo and other urban centers remain under a state of emergency that places tight restrictions on bars and restaurants.

Suga needs to pull off a safe and successful games to avoid damaging his prospects in a party leadership poll in September and a general election that must be held by the end of October.

A separate survey by broadcaster TBS found 44% saying the global sports spectacular should go ahead in some form, up 9 percentage points on last month.

Signs of softening on the Olympics haven’t translated into higher support for Suga, with approval levels in both polls at their lowest since he took office in September. About 68% of respondents to the Yomiuri survey said they didn’t approve of his government’s handling of the pandemic, and 58% said the vaccine rollout wasn’t going smoothly.

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