Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Wednesday the Japanese capital should host the postponed Summer Olympics "by all means" next year by taking thorough measures against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Athletes are going through much hardship due to the one-year delay given that their physical condition and motivation were targeted at this summer," Koike said in a talk, organized by Kyodo News for its subscribers, delivered online from the metropolitan government. "We have to go forward with the games next summer by all means."
She said Tokyo will "implement every possible measure" to hold a "safe and secure" Olympics and Paralympics, adding, "By taking one step at a time, I want the games to be memorable."
Koike's comments came two days after the International Olympic Committee's Vice President John Coates told AFP that the games "will take place with or without COVID" as planned starting on July 23 next year.
Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto also said Tuesday she believes the games should be held next year "at any cost" considering the preparations being made by athletes and others involved.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were originally scheduled to take place this summer, until the global health crisis forced a one-year delay in March.
The number of virus cases in Tokyo has been trending downward since mid-August after daily increases of 300 to 400 earlier.
"There have been increases and decreases in the number, but overall, we have seen a downward trend," Koike said. "But the rate of decline is slow and we need to continue to be cautious of another resurgence as advised by our panel of medical experts."
The Tokyo metropolitan government on Monday reported 77 daily infections, the lowest number since July 8, but it confirmed 149 new cases on Wednesday. The capital's cumulative total now stands at 22,168 and remains the highest by far among Japan's 47 prefectures.
A former lawmaker, Koike said the new prime minister should "demonstrate leadership" in delivering important tasks including successfully staging the Tokyo Games, when asked what she will look for in the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe, who led Japan's successful bid in 2013 for the games, announced late last month that he would step down for health reasons. Three lawmakers have declared their bids for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election, which will be held Monday to select his successor.
"The leader that Japan needs now is someone who can run the Japanese government by greatly upgrading (Abe's administration), not simply extending it," she said.
On Friday, a Japanese government panel tasked with formulating steps to counter the coronavirus pandemic at the games held its first meeting, with a plan to submit an interim report possibly by the end of the year.
The government and the games' organizing committee are making preparations on the assumption that the global spread of the virus will not be completely contained by the time of the Tokyo Games, and are considering easing entry restrictions for foreign athletes.