Tokyo, Japan
Reuters

An overwhelming majority of Japanese said they were "interested in the Olympics", although 58 per cent said they did not want them to be held this year because of fears over COVID-19, a Yomiuri daily poll showed on Wednesday.

In the survey, conducted between 18th January and 25th February, when much of the country remained in a coronavirus state of emergency, 30 per cent of the respondents said they were "very interested" in the Summer Games and 40 per cent said they were "somewhat interested", for a combined 70 per cent.

Japan Olympic rings Tokyo

 A man wears a protective mask amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in front of the giant Olympic rings in Tokyo, Japan, on 13th January, 2021. PICTURE: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon//File photo

But concerns over the impact on coronavirus infections kept most opposed to holding the event this year, although the 58 per cent in opposition is about 20 percentage points lower than earlier opinion polls.

If the Games were to go ahead as scheduled, 91 per cent of respondents said spectators should be kept to a minimum or not allowed at all, the Yomiuri poll showed.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year because of the pandemic and rescheduled to take place this year from 23rd July.

A survey by global consultancy Kekst CNC published on Wednesday showed similar rates of majority opposition in Japan, at 56 per cent, as well as in Britain and Germany, at 55 per cent and 52 per cent respectively.

In France and Sweden, more people opposed than approved, while in the United States, respondents were split at one-third between those who agreed and disagreed that the Games should go ahead, according to the survey.

While coronavirus infection numbers are low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area remains in a state of emergency, with restrictions in place for spectator numbers for big sporting and cultural events, as well as closing times for bars and restaurants. The country remains closed to non-resident foreigners.

A Reuters poll published last month showed nearly two-thirds of Japanese companies also oppose holding the Games as planned, swinging from the previous survey showing most in favour.

Japan has so far confirmed 431,250 coronavirus cases and 7,931 deaths as of Monday.