Japan e-commerce CEO calls Olympics ‘suicide mission’

TOKYO – Holding the Tokyo Olympics this summer would be a “suicide mission” as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world, the head of Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten has warned.

“It’s dangerous to host the big international event from all over the world,” CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said in an interview with CNN.

“So, the risk is too big and… I’m against having the Tokyo Olympics this year,” Mikitani said, describing the Games as “a suicide mission”.

On Friday, Japan extended a coronavirus state of emergency as the nation is battling a fourth wave of virus infections.

The surge has put pressure on the country’s healthcare system, with medical professionals repeatedly warning about shortages and burnout.

With just over 10 weeks until the Games open on July 23, public opinion remains opposed, with most favouring a further delay or cancellation.

On Friday, a petition to cancel the Tokyo Olympics with more than 351,000 signatures was submitted to the city’s governor.

Mikitani, who has been critical about the government’s handling of the pandemic and hosting the Tokyo Games this year, said it was not too late to scrap the event, saying: “Everything is possible.”

But organisers say they can safely hold the Games thanks to virus countermeasures and point to a string of successful recent test events, including some featuring overseas athletes.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also told reporters on Friday: “It is possible to hold safe and secure Games. We want to firmly go ahead with preparations.”BSS/AFP