Yuriko Koike, the Tokyo Governor, stated on Monday that the Olympics have to be held next year in order to symbolise world unity in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, even as Tokyo struggles with spikes in cases.
Whilst Japan has not been as impacted as other countries of its population size have been by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has suffered a recent increase in cases, particularly in Tokyo, accounting for more than a third of the 20,000 that have been found in total in the country.
The recent spike in cases has caused many Japanese residents to worry about a possible second wave of infections.
The 2020 Olympics, which were set to start this month, were postponed because of COVID-19 on March 24.
Koike has stated that the government will do all it can to win public support for the Olympic Games, yet a public survey showed that the majority of people want them to be postponed again or else cancelled altogether.
Speaking in an online interview with Reuters, Koike stated that she has a desire to “hose them as a symbol to overcome this tough situation and of strengthened bonds among humankind.”
Koike refused to specify an exact deadline for deciding if the event could go ahead, or else cancelled.
Koike is a former television announced that is capable of speaking English and Arabic very fluently, yet to many she is a paradox in characteristics.
Whilst many see her as a global thinker with a nationalist tinge, others see her as a political outsider who advanced in her position with the help of former politicians, and some also see her as a risk-taker that refused to go into parliament in 2017 as head of her party, ‘Party of Hope’.
Koike’s party struggled after a snap election was called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leading to her staying as Tokyo governor, being heavily praised for the way she has tackled the COVID-19 situation.
She was re-elected as governor by a large margin last week, with rumours once again popping up about the possibility of her becoming Japan’s first ever woman prime minister.
However, on Monday July 13, she completely set aside this speculation, saying that she is “happy that people have hopes” for her in the future, yet she “received support for a second term as governor”, nothing more.
Adding to this, Koike also stated that her “greatest mission” is to “protect the lives and health of the people of Tokyo by addressing the immediate issue of policies for the coronavirus.”
Tokyo has suffered from a massive increase in cases in the last few weeks, coming at just the wrong time for Abe’s government that is preparing to announce a campaign to promote domestic tourism.
This proposal has come under increased scrutiny, with fears growing of spreading the virus to other parts of the country not just the capital.
Koike seeks to establish a balance between “the prevention of infections and social and economic activity”, with Tokyo accounting for around 20% of Japan’s whole economy.
Koike had recently clashed with Abe over the timing of the state of emergency, and with regards to the businesses that should be shut down, wanting more clarity on local governments’ authority during the pandemic.
Koike is the first female governor of Tokyo, Japan’s first female defence minister, and also the first woman to run for president of the Liberal Democratic Party.