Japan presses on with Olympics preparations despite surging coronavirus cases

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask against COVID-19 is seen through the Olympic rings in Tokyo, Japan January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s government is continuing with preparations to hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer as planned, following a postponement because of the coronavirus pandemic, chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Wednesday.

Japan has repeatedly insisted it will hold the Games despite opinion polls showing a majority of respondents want them postponed again or cancelled.

“Right now we’re working as one with everybody involved in organising the Games to host them successfully,” Kato told a regular news conference.

The comments come as local media reported Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. philanthropist Bill Gates had spoken about the Olympic Games on Tuesday in a call arranged by Suntory Holdings Ltd CEO Takeshi Niinami.

Suga told Gates the Games were “very important” and would “definitely” go ahead, Kyodo news agency quoted Niinami as saying.

But Kato said Suga did not make that comment to Gates.

“I’ve checked and as far as I know, that expression was not used,” Kato said.

Japan is grappling with a third wave of the coronavirus, with infections hovering at a record-high.

The Olympic Games were originally due to take place in 2020.

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Ana Nicolaci da Costa