TOKYO: An overwhelming majority of Japanese said they were “interested in the Olympics”, although 58 per cent said they did not want them to be held because of fears over COVID-19, a Yomiuri daily poll showed on Wednesday (Mar 3).
In the survey, conducted between Jan 18 and Feb 25, when much of the country remained in a coronavirus state of emergency, 30 per cent of the respondents said they were “very interested” in the Summer Games and 40 per cent said they were “somewhat interested”, for a combined 70 per cent.
But concerns over the impact on COVID-19 infections kept most opposed to holding the event this year, although the 58 per cent in opposition is about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.
If the Games were to go ahead as scheduled, 91 per cent of respondents said spectators should be kept to a minimum or not allowed at all, the Yomiuri poll showed.
The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year because of the pandemic and rescheduled to take place this year from Jul 23.
While coronavirus infection numbers are low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area remains in a state of emergency, with restrictions in place for spectator numbers for big sporting and cultural events, as well as on closing times for bars and restaurants.
The country remains closed to non-resident foreigners.
A Reuters poll published last month showed that nearly two-thirds of Japanese companies also oppose holding the Games as planned, swinging from the previous survey showing most in favour.
Japan has so far confirmed 431,250 COVID-19 cases and 7,931 deaths as of Monday. Local media reported late on Tuesday that Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures were set to ask the government to extend the state of emergency by about two weeks beyond the scheduled end on Mar 7.