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Many Japan towns scrap plans to host Olympic athletes as Covid wave surges

Japan’s towns scrap plans to host Olympic athletes as Covid wave surges

Several Japanese towns have scrapped plans to host overseas athletes competing in the Olympics scheduled from July as the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections surges in the country, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Thursday.

Of 528 towns registered to welcome international athletes, about 40 have decided not to accept them for training camps and cultural exchanges in the run-up to the Games, the Nikkei report said citing a government source.

Ibaraki prefecture Governor Kazuhiko Ooigawa said on Wednesday that he rejected the Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee's request to secure hospital beds for the athletes as the prefecture had to prioritise citizens over athletes.

He has said a further postponement of the Games – which was originally due to be held last year – or outright cancellation should be considered if the pandemic worsened.

US team cancels training camp 

The United States' track and field team has cancelled its pre-Olympics training camp in Japan out of concerns for their safety during the pandemic, the eastern prefecture of Chiba said on Wednesday.

Overseas athletes also will not participate in a test event for the Olympics BMX freestyle cycling, the Yomiuri newspaper said on Thursday, citing an unnamed source. The test event had been postponed from April to May 17 amid the pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday said it supported Japanese measures to counter COVID-19 and was confident the Tokyo Olympics would be a "historic" event.

The Japanese government has stuck to its stand that the Games will be held as scheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8, despite growing criticism over the move in the wake of the relentless surge of the pandemic. .

Public opposition to the Games has been growing in Japan as the country struggles to contain a fourth wave of infections.

Japan reported more than 7,000 new infections on Wednesday. Closet oa 1,000 of these were in Tokyo which is the host city for the Olympics.

The government has faced severe criticism for not locking down the economy hard enough and delaying the vaccine drive as a mere 2.8% of the population has been inoculated, the This is the lowest rate among advanced nations.