Japan “concentrates on hosting” amid cancellation rumors

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and the local organizers oppose the information pointing to the cancellation of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The Tokyo Games, which are scheduled to open on July 23, were postponed 10 months ago due to the onset of the pandemic and now appear to be threatened again.

The Times newspaper, citing unidentified government sources, reported on Friday that the games will have to be canceled. He cited a senior official in the government coalition, but did not give his name.

“Nobody wants to be the first to say it, but the consensus is that it is too difficult,” the source said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said.

In a statement on Friday, the organizing committee did not directly address The Times article.But he claimed that the Olympics were going ahead and that they had the support of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“All of our partners, including the national government, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the IOC and the IPC [Comité Paralímpico Internacional], are fully focused on holding the Games this summer, “the statement said.

“We hope that daily life can return to normal as soon as possible, and we will continue to do everything possible to prepare for safe games.”

The Times reported that Japan hoped to get the 2032 Olympics. The IOC has already awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles.

The idea of ​​Tokyo waiting a decade seems unlikely, given the cost of maintaining venues, negotiating new leases, etc. Tokyo has already spent about $ 25 billion to host these Olympics, most of which is public money.

Several reports of a cancellation began to emerge this month when the Japanese government placed Tokyo and other prefectures under a state of emergency order to counter a surge in COVID-19 cases. “At this time, we have no reason to believe that the Tokyo Olympics will not open on July 23 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium,” Bach told Japan’s Kyodo news agency on Thursday. He also said that “there is no plan B”.

TV-only event

Richard Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, declared earlier this week that the Olympics could be held largely without fans, becoming a largely television event.

The Swiss-based IOC derives 73% of its revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights and has seen its main source of income crippled by the postponement of the Games. A mostly television event would suit the IOC better than a cancellation. Unlike other sports businesses that offer hundreds of games, the IOC only has two main events to sell: the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Bach hinted that radical changes could be necessary to carry out the Olympic Games in Tokyo, in which 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of coaches, officials, judges, personalities, media and broadcasters participate. Some 4,400 athletes will attend the Paralympic Games, which will open on August 24.

“You may not like it, but it will take sacrifices,” Bach said. “That’s why I say that safety comes first, and that there are no taboos in the debate to guarantee safety.”

Japan has recorded fewer than 5,000 deaths from the coronavirus and has handled the virus better than most countries. But the surge is not abating in Tokyo, a sprawling metropolitan area of ​​35 million people.

Japanese public opinion has also turned against the games, with 80% in various polls saying they should be postponed again or canceled.

Bach said organizers were in a better position to hold the Olympics now than 10 months ago, when they were postponed. “First of all, let me make it clear that March 2021 cannot be compared to March 2020 because there is great progress in science, medicine, vaccination and (virus) testing,” Bach told Kyodo. “All of this was not available in March of last year. Nobody knew yet how to really deal with the pandemic, and now we know much more.”

Japan is experiencing a slow rollout of vaccines. However, the IOC has said that its measures against the virus will focus on testing, quarantines, social distancing and keeping athletes largely isolated. He has encouraged athletes to get vaccinated, but he will not demand it.