Games loom large in upcoming Tokyo assembly election

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike speaks at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on Wednesday.

Debate over the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games amid the spread of the novel coronavirus has been a major theme in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, which will be held about one month from now on July 4.

The assembly held a question session on Wednesday, and representatives of each party took considerable time to ask Gov. Yuriko Koike about her stance on the Games, set to start on July 23.

Koike and senior officials of the Tokyo metropolitan government repeatedly said in their replies that they will make steady preparations to prevent a resurgence of infections and ensure the safety and security of the Games.

Questions regarding the Games were raised by the regional political party Tomin First no Kai, the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

At the assembly session, the Tomin First no Kai, for which Koike is special adviser, called for examining “all possibilities,” including holding the Games without spectators or postponing them again.

“On the streets, we are increasingly grilled by Tokyo residents about our stance on the Olympics,” an assembly member of the party told The Yomiuri Shimbun. “There’s no need to say that the event should be canceled, but we certainly can’t compete in the election if we unconditionally call for holding the Olympics.”

The JCP, as a campaign promise for the assembly election, insisted that the Games be cancelled at the session. The CDPJ also argued for the necessity of postponing or canceling the Games due to concerns about the spread of the virus.

On the other hand, the position of both the LDP and Komeito is to promote the holding of the Games. During the session, an LDP assembly member said, “[Tokyo] should work to finish the preparations for the Games.” And a Komeito assembly member mentioned anti-infection measures, saying, “It is important to take all possible measures.”

An LDP member of the assembly said to The Yomiuri Shimbun, “It would be irresponsible for the host city to call off the Games now.”

The daily number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Tokyo has been lower than the figure for the same day of the previous week for 20 consecutive days through June 2. However, the average number of new infections in the past week was 500.4, which is still classified as Stage 4, the most serious stage according to national criteria.

In a Yomiuri Shimbun poll of Tokyo residents at the end of May, 49% of respondents said they favored holding the Games, including those who favored holding the Games with a limited number of spectators and those who favored holding the Games without spectators, closely matched 48% of the respondents who favored canceling the Games.

“There are many challenges facing the metropolitan government, including measures against the coronavirus,” a Tokyo metropolitan government official who has been busy preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics said. “It would be a shame if the Olympics and Paralympics are used for election purposes.”