Japan’s prime minister said he was “determined” to hold the Tokyo Olympics as organisers on Friday brushed off a report claiming officials think cancellation is inevitable, reported AFP.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s latest insistence that the postponed Games are on track comes after The Times cited an unnamed government source saying Japan has already shifted its focus to hosting in 2032. “According to a senior member of the ruling coalition, there is agreement that the Games, already postponed a year, are doomed,” the report said.
But Suga insisted that wouldn’t be the case.
“I am determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” Suga said Friday according to AFP, without actively denying the Times report.
Tokyo 2020 organisers, when asked about the report, said they were focused on delivering a “safe and secure” Games.
“Prime Minister Suga has expressed his determination to hold the Games, the government is leading a series of coordination meetings for Covid-19 countermeasures and is implementing thorough infection countermeasures in order to be able to hold the Games,” they said in a statement.
“All our delivery partners... are fully focused on hosting the Games this summer. We hope that daily life can return to normal as soon as possible, and we will continue to make every effort to prepare for a safe and secure Games,” they added.
Reuters also reported that Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai, a government spokesman, told reporters on Friday that there is no truth to the report about the possible cancellation.
Concerns have risen about the fate of the Games as Japan battles a third wave of virus infections, with polls showing around 80 percent of Japanese oppose hosting the event this year.
The Games are currently scheduled to open in just over six months, on July 23.
With much of the world still paralysed by Covid-19, and Tokyo under a state of emergency, the doubting voices are growing louder.
Former London 2012 deputy chairman Keith Mills this week said he thought the Games looked “unlikely” to happen, while British Olympics legend Matthew Pinsent said it was “ludicrous” to go ahead.
The long path to Tokyo’s second Summer Games has been littered with obstacles, from bid bribery allegations to fears over the summer heat.
But none has loomed as large as the pandemic, which last March forced the first peacetime postponement in modern Games history.
In Japan, whose emergency measures cover greater Tokyo and other parts of the country, public disenchantment is rising.
A poll this month found 80 percent of respondents opposed hosting the event this year, with 35 percent favouring outright cancellation and 45 percent calling for further postponement.
The Australian Open tennis Grand Slam has underlined the complexity of organising international sport in the pandemic, with major problems bringing in players and keeping them Covid-free.
“It’s been really eye-opening here in Melbourne to see and hear the amount of logistical challenges and the scale of trying to organise just a tennis event in the current situation,” said Gordon Reid, the British wheelchair tennis player and Paralympic gold-medallist.
“You’ve got to multiply that by a thousand when it comes to the Olympics and Paralympics because they are on another scale.”
In an interview with Kyodo News published on Thursday, International Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach said the Games will go ahead this summer and there is “no plan B”.
Tokyo 2020 chiefs say another postponement is “absolutely impossible”, meaning the Games will be cancelled if they cannot be held this year.
They are pushing ahead with a raft of coronavirus countermeasures intended to ensure a safe Games, even without vaccines which remain non-mandatory for athletes.
A 53-page interim report released in December outlines measures including a ban on supporters cheering, regular testing for athletes and limited stays at the Olympic village.
Much is still undecided though, including a decision on how many spectators will be allowed – if any.
(With AFP inputs)