SoftBank Group Corp CEO Masayoshi Son said on Thursday he is “afraid” of having the Olympics during the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed concern for both Japan and countries sending athletes to the Games in Tokyo.
The intervention from one of Japan’s most prominent executives comes as the government has vowed to press ahead with Tokyo 2020 amid rising domestic virus cases and concern over the speed of the vaccination rollout.
“I am very much afraid of having the Olympics, not just for Japan but for many countries. They are having a tough situation. I don’t know how they can support sending athletes,” he said.
While Son has been vocal over what he sees as failings in Japan’s coronavirus response, with SoftBank setting up its own testing facility, the comments are his first explicitly expressing concern over the viability of Tokyo 2020.
The CEO of Japan’s top e-commerce company “Rakuten” said, it would be a “suicide mission” for the country to host the Olympic Games this summer.
In the interview,Rakuten CEO Mikitani said, “He had been trying to convince the government to cancel the Tokyo games, which are scheduled to begin on July 23. He also gave the Japanese government a score of “two out of 10” for its handling of the pandemic”. Other prominent Japanese executives have voiced their worries over this year’s Olympics, but none has been as critical as Mikitani.
It’s dangerous to host the big international event from all over the world. So, the risk is too big,” Mikitani told to a News portal. “The upside is not that great, and we see many countries are still struggling so much, including India and Brazil. And it’s not time to celebrate yet,” he added.
When asked if he believed the Olympics could yet be canceled, he said “everything is possible right now,” and that he thought it would be “difficult” to make the games safe.
With Covid-19 cases rising, hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for the Olympics to be canceled, and this week Japan’s top executives have also voiced their concerns.
Japan recently extended its third state of emergency to deal with the pandemic, raising safety concerns over volunteers, athletes, officials and the Japanese public.
Meanwhile, the United States’ track and field team announced on Wednesday it had canceled its pre-Olympic training camp in Japan, citing uncertainty around the competition.
On Wednesday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson Mark Adams assured reporters that plans to host the full games are going ahead, despite growing public concern.