One of Japan's sporting legends and an executive of the country's Olympic committee said on Friday the Tokyo Games should be held without spectators to ensure the safety of the public and accused the organizers of using a "double standard".
The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) board member Kaori Yamaguchi, an Olympic judo medallist, said the government was "confusing" the people by asking them to stay at home and imposing curbs while putting on the global sports showpiece.
Polls have shown most Japanese oppose holding the Games this year, worried about a slow vaccination rollout and the flood of athletes and officials from overseas. Japan has effectively been closed to foreign visitors since the pandemic broke out.
"There's this fear inside everyone that if people start moving around Japan again, the infections would spread right at the time when they have peaked out and people can live safe lives again," said Yamaguchi, one of the few lone voices openly critical of the Olympics in the world of Japanese sports.
"If we were to limit the virus and be careful about it, I'd say we should hold the Games without spectators," Yamaguchi told Reuters in a Zoom interview.
Already postponed from last year because of the pandemic, a scaled-down version of the Games with no foreign spectators is set to start on July 23 despite public fears it could drain medical resources and spread the coronavirus as Japan appears to have contained the fourth wave of infections.
The decision on the domestic spectators -- and whether to lift the state of emergency in Tokyo and several other areas -- is expected later this month.
The government's most senior medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, has been voicing his concerns in parliament over the last week, warning that the biggest risk was the increased movement of the public, which has contributed to past rises in infections.