#TokyoOlympics: G7 leaders planning to back Japan’s efforts to stage Olympics

The Group of Seven leading economies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. plan to back Japan’s efforts to stage this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics in a joint statement to be released later this month after a summit of their leaders, an official with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.

The summit is slated for June 11 to 13 in Cornwall, southwest England. The support for the Tokyo Games in the forthcoming communique was requested by Japan, according to the official.

The move comes as Japan seeks to use every occasion to counter skepticism about whether the postponed games can be held safely this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic. A recent Kyodo News poll showed more than 80% of the respondents said the games should be put off again or cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during their phone talks earlier this week to garner support for the games and cooperation from other members of the G7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Sates. Britain is this year’s chair of the G7.

It remains uncertain how much the joint statement could help build momentum toward the Summer Games, scheduled to open on July 23.

Japan began vaccinations for the virus on Wednesday, well behind many other countries. Tokyo and some other prefectures remain under a state of emergency as the medical system continues to be strained by the number of COVID-19 patients.

Furthermore, public sentiment was dented recently after Yoshiro Mori announced his resignation as the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee chief last week over his sexist remarks. He was replaced by former Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto on Thursday.

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The Friday teleconference will be the first talks since last April when G7 leaders discussed the coronavirus response and the first international gathering for U.S. President Joe Biden since he became president on Jan. 20.

Aside from the Olympics, the leaders are expected to reaffirm joint efforts toward global economic recovery from the pandemic and call for fair distribution of vaccines worldwide including developing countries in the joint statement, according to the sources.

Accelerating efforts toward realizing a carbon-free society, ensuring financial market stability and creating global tax rules are also likely to be highlighted in the statement.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the Japanese governent last Thursday backed Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympic Games this year, with EU-produced vaccines helping Japan in its battle against a fourth wave of infections.

“We support the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner this summer as a symbol of global unity in defeating COVID-19,” the EU and Japan said in a joint statement after a summit.

Japan’s vaccination drive has been glacially slow, with just over 5% of the population having had a shot, and several polls have shown the majority of the Japanese public are opposed to holding the games.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union had authorized the export to Japan of more than 100 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate about 40% of the population.

“We have of course said we are looking forward to the Olympics Games,” she told a news conference, adding that the vaccine shipments were a strong sign of EU support for preparations of a safe event.

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The Olympic Games run for just over two weeks from July 23, with the Paralympics due to start on Aug. 24. Foreign spectators have been banned and a decision on domestic ones is expected next month.

The head of Japan’s doctor’s union warned on Tuesday that hosting thousands of athletes and officials could lead to the emergence of an “Olympic” virus strain.

“We have indicated we are engaged with the authorities of his country to take all the precautionary measures required,” European Council president Charles Michel said after his video meeting with von der Leyen and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The leaders also discussed cooperation on climate change, trade and foreign and security policy, saying they were committed to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, unconstrained by coercion.

Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Naoki Okada told a separate briefing that the two sides agreed to oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, echoing a G7 statement on the disputed waters earlier in May.

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