When the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were originally postponed, officials, coaches, and athletes were fairly confident (or at least, hopeful) that by summer 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic would be firmly in our past. The resurgence of infections around the world over the last several months has once again put the Olympics in jeopardy, and a recent report by The Times London stated that the Japanese government is looking for a way out of hosting the Games.
According to the report, a senior member of the ruling commission revealed the government has privately concluded that because of the coronavirus, hosting the event will be too difficult. Instead, they are switching their focus on securing the Games for the next available year, which would be 2032.
Since then, Japanese officials have dismissed the rumour, including Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary and the country’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga.
“We are determined to stage a safe Games, with thorough precautions,” the Prime Minister said, according to Bloomberg, “as proof that the world has defeated the novel coronavirus and to show the world the recovery from the Great East Japan earthquake.”
Additionally, mere hours before The Times released its report, president of the Internation Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, further disqualified the report as fake news. In an interview with Kyoto News, he said he had no reason to believe the Olympics would not go forward as scheduled, adding that there was no ‘plan B’.
“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,” Bach said in an online interview with the news outlet.
Following the release of The Times report, the IOC backed Bach’s statement, stating in an email that the organization is fully committed to ‘the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year.’
There are still many barriers the games must overcome in order to go forward as planned, including opposition from Japanese locals. According to a telephone poll conducted in late June, 51.7 per cent of Tokyo citizens believe the games should be postponed even further, or canceled altogether.
The IOC has also failed to indicate what criteria would need to be in place in order for the Olympics to go on, and there are many unanswered questions like whether spectators will be allowed, and how they can safely host the opening and closing ceremonies. Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, has reportedly said that decisions about the games will likely be made in March when they can get a clearer idea of what the virus situation will be in the summer, but even these remarks have been denied by his office.
With new statements and developments being released almost daily, the fate of the Olympics is not certain, but at this point, all parties involved appear to be determined to make them happen. As we get closer and closer to the Olympics, officials will be forced to make some decisions, and we expect to see some significant developments over the coming weeks.