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Residents uncertain about Games as costs, COVID-19 cases rise

Japanese residents are torn between trepidation and tentative support for next year’s Olympic Games that are now set to be far more expensive than expected amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

In an announcement on Friday, organisers said the postponed Games would cost an additional 294 billion yen ($2.8 billion) with the bill to be shared by the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG).

EditPro | Lagos Metropolitan newspaper People walk across a pedestrian crossing near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building adorned with signs promoting the 2020 Olympics. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

In total, TMG and the national government, and in turn the Japanese taxpayer, are expecting to pay 191 billion yen to cover the costs of postponement and a raft of coronavirus countermeasures.

In spite of the total Games budget now being likely to run north of 1.63 trillion yen, some Japanese residents taking photographs near the newly-built National Stadium on Monday said they believed it may be a price worth paying.

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“I think the number of coronavirus infected cases (in Japan) is still smaller than other countries, so I hope they can hold (the Games) somehow under this situation,” said 72-year-old Shiro Terui.

“It also contributes to the global economy as well.”

Satsuki Kataoka, an accountant walking her dog near the stadium, said she accepts that holding the Games during a pandemic brings added costs.

“As a taxpayer, I feel the (extra) budget they compiled is a little bit too large,” she said. “But I do understand that extra expenses are needed due to the coronavirus situation.”

Although Japan has avoided the vast number of COVID-19 cases and deaths seen in other countries across the world, they are now experiencing a third wave.

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s cabinet dropped to 50.3 per cent from 63.0 per cent a month earlier, with the disapproval rating rising to 32.8 per cent from 19.2 per cent, a Kyodo News survey showed.

With over 15,000 athletes from across the world coming to Tokyo for the Games, there are fears that their arrival could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“For me, it is very worrying that various people from overseas are visiting Japan in such a situation,” said 27-year-old Ryota Sato. “So, I am not that supportive. I expect it may be cancelled, or postponed again.”

Organisers have said they will decide on the number of spectators allowed into Olympic venues in the spring. (Reuters/NAN)

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