On Friday Jan 22th, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai held a press conference. Sakai told reporters that there is no truth to a report about the possible cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics.
Earlier on Friday, a report by UK newspaper, the Times, was refuted by the government spokesman. The Times report said the already-delayed Games would be cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic based on a private conclusion by the Japanese government.
An unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition was cited as the source of this information by the newspaper. It said the Japanese government is now focusing to securing the Games for Tokyo in the next available year, 2032.
Fears of the pandemic
Compared to many other advanced economies, Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic. However, a recent surge in cases is changing that fact now, as Japan is starting to close its borders to non-resident foreigners. Along with that, a state of emergency has been declared in Tokyo and major cities.
Fears that the influx of athletes might spread the virus further, recent opinion polls show nearly 80 per cent of people in Japan do not want the Games to be held this summer.
According to the Times report, the government announced a cancellation that leaves the door open to Tokyo hosting at a later date, trying to save face while against this backdrop.
The unnamed source said “No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” according to the Times. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
After the report by the Times, the Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, spoke of his determination to make the Tokyo Olympic Games a reality. Suga is working closely with Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee.
In a press conference earlier last week, Sugar said the showpiece event would “bring hope and courage to the world”.
The games organisers are going ahead with preparations for the Games, scheduled to open Jul 23rd as was vowed by both organisers and the Japanese government.
On Thursday, commitment to holding the Games this year was reaffirmed by IOC president Thomas Bach during an interview with Kyodo News.
Bach told Kyodo “We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.”
Focus is kept by both the Australian and US Olympic Committees on preparing for the Games as now scheduled.
On Twitter, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee wrote “Any official communication on the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will come from the IOC, Tokyo Organizing Committee and the Japanese government,”.
“We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer.”
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) was one of the first to say its country’s athletes would not head to Tokyo last year, before the decision came to postpone the Games.
The AOC stated that “The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free.”
22nd January 2021 23:00
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