Japan has doubled down on using international sporting events like the forthcoming Olympic Games as a way to turbocharge its tourism industry. It's clear from the prime minister's remarks on Monday that it doesn't expect the coronavirus to get in the way of that.
Concern about the spreading coronavirus outbreak in China and its impact on this year’s Tokyo Olympics reached Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.
Abe was asked about the virus by an opposition lawmaker but he brushed aside worries.
“We will respond appropriately,” Abe said, speaking in Japanese, “while closely cooperating with the World Health Organization and other international organizations so that we can proceed with the preparations without letting it affect the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.”
Japan has not reported any fatalities from the outbreak, while China has reported more than 300 deaths from the virus and more than 17,000 cases.
The Olympics open July 24.
Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Olympics. Tokyo Governor Yurkio Koike has urged vigilance said there will be “regrets” if there isn’t a maximum effort made.
Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said Tokyo organizers and representatives from local municipalities would meet next week to discuss measures against the virus.
The modern Olympics, dating from 1896, have been called off during wartime and faced boycotts in 1980 and 1984. They have evolved in the last few decades into a multi-billion dollar event with massive investments from television and sponsors.
About 11,000 athletes will attend the Olympics. Many of them still need to qualify and could face qualifying events canceled or postponed if the virus continues to spread outside China.
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Photo credit: Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Tomohiro Ohsumi / AP Photo