Taxpayers in Japan could reportedly be forced to pony up an $800 million bailout of the already heavily subsidized Tokyo Olympics.
If the Japanese government does not allow fans into the Olympics, which are due to start on July 23, organizers will be forced to refund billions of yen to ticket-holders and face a massive budget shortfall, according to a Financial Times report based on organizing committee records.
The burden will then fall on Tokyo taxpayers, who have already spent billions of dollars on Olympics-related projects and seen the games pushed back once already, from summer 2020 to 2021.
Foreign fans have been barred from these Olympics, and a decision on whether to allow domestic spectators is expected in the coming weeks. Much of the country, including Tokyo, is currently under a state of emergency.
At the G7 summit this week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga weighed in on capacity limits.
“Taking into account the level of COVID-19 infections, we’ll decide [on capacity] in accordance with the numbers allowed at other sporting events,” he said, according to the Financial Times.
The news comes as the Olympics are broadly unpopular in Japan. A May survey by a Japanese newspaper showed that 43 percent of Japanese people thought the Olympics should be canceled outright, while 40 percent said it should be postponed again. Just 14 percent supported holding the games this summer.
In the same poll, 59 percent of respondents said no spectators should be allowed, while 33 percent supported limited-capacity spectators and just 3 percent wanted full capacity.
Japan’s vaccination program has lagged behind other developed countries, with just one in five Japanese adults having received a dose, according to Our World In Data’s vaccine tracker. By comparison, 52 percent of Americans and 45 percent of EU residents have received at least one dose.
In recent weeks, Tokyo has logged an average of 300 to 400 new COVID-19 cases and several deaths per day, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker.
Given the low vaccination rate and the high proportion of elderly people in Japan’s population, Olympics opponents say that welcoming international athletes and press could destroy what progress the country has made in suppressing the virus and cause needless deaths. The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee insists that the games can be held safely.
Tokyo Olympics representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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