Japanese PM Suga financial advisor Takeshi Niinami on the Tokyo Olympics

A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks past a banner promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Japan.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – There has been much debate over whether the Tokyo Olympics will be held in Japan later this year after being postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19.

Recent public opinion polls show that the majority of people in Japan – around 80% of those polled – don’t want the Tokyo Olympics to take place this summer. They fear the influx of athletes will spread the virus even further, according to Reuters.

Speculation resumed last week after The Times in the UK, citing a source, reported that the Japanese government had privately concluded that the Games should be canceled because of the pandemic. The government flatly rejected the report, saying it was “not the truth”.

Takeshi Niinami, executive director of beverage giant Suntory Holdings, who is also a prominent economic advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, told CNBC on Tuesday that some conditions must be met for the Olympic Games in Japan this year.

“These guidelines should be implemented (as soon as possible) so that we can … hold and host the Olympics,” Niinami said.

When asked what conditions must be met to restore confidence that the July 23 Olympics can go ahead as planned, he listed four.

1. To control the current spread of cases

Japan needs to contain and “strictly” quarantine the current spread of Covid-19, including asymptomatic cases, Niinami said.

The country has recently been hit hard by a recurrence of cases and Tokyo and other major cities in the country have been in a state of emergency.

2. Individuals must wear contact tracing devices

People must “agree to wear and receive the contact tracing devices through smartphones,” Niinami said.

Japan launched a coronavirus smartphone contact tracking app last June that uses Bluetooth signals to detect contact with nearby users. If a user later tests positive, their contacts can be tracked and notified.

According to Japanese media, Kyodo News, while there have been privacy concerns, the government has assured people that the app does not collect personally identifiable information.

3. The vaccine rollout needs to begin

The introduction of the vaccine is scheduled to begin in February. “This is a must,” he said.

According to Reuters, Japan has agreed to purchase 314 million cans from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca for its 126 million residents.

4. Experiment with other important events

According to Niinami, the country needs to experiment with large events like professional baseball games.

Despite Japan’s refusal to cancel the Tokyo Olympics, officials like Niinami expressed doubts as to whether the Games would take place in early January.

Niinami told Reuters he wasn’t sure the Olympics could go ahead as planned. Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, told the BBC that he could “not be sure” that the Games would go on “because the walking elephant in the room” would increase the number of coronavirus cases.

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