There is growing confusion about the fate of Tokyo’s already-postponed Olympic Games.
Public statements from Japanese Prime Minster Yoshihide Suga and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach that Games are on solid ground were contradicted Thursday by a Japanese government official claiming that the decision is already made that the Olympics will be cancelled.
Coronavirus turning tide against Tokyo
The 2021 Olympics are currently scheduled to start on July 23, 2021, and the Paralympics shortly after. This is one year after the original opening date, which was rescheduled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Japan initially fared relatively well in its fight against the virus. A recent surge, though, has turned the countries fortunes and turned Japanese public opinion against the Games.
Last week, a survey found 80 per cent of Japanese people opposed the Games, according to the Koyodo News.
Now The Times reports the Japnese government has come to a private decision that the Games must be cancelled, according to a senior member of the government’s ruling coalition.
“No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that its too difficult,” the source told The Times. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Instead, Tokyo will focus on the possibility of hosting the Games in the future. The next Olympic Games without a current host city are in 2032.
IOC and Japan united in confidence and resolve, publicly
The revelation contradicts public statements from the highest officials involved in the Games. IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese PM Suga both restated their confidence in the safety of the Olympics this week.
IOC President Thomas Bach restated his confidence in the Games, and public safety, earlier Thursday.
“We have, at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on 23 July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo,” Bach told Reuters. “This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful.”
Japanese PM Suga also made strong statements in support of the Olympics. He stated that the coronavirus surge sweeping Tokyo would be brought under control “as soon as possible,” clearing way for the Games to proceed in 2021. He had stated earlier that a “safe and secure” Olympics would offer “proof that humanity has defeated the virus.”
What is in doubt is the attendance of fans. But, as for whether the athletes will be able to compete safely, officials are admitting little doubt.
Canadian IOC board member Dick Pound caused a stir earlier in January. He claimed that the public would not be upset if athletes were given priority access to vaccines. Pound also claimed that early vaccination would be the easiest way to ensure the Olympics were held safely.
Canada continues preparations as planned
David Shoemaker, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General, responded to the news on Twitter late Thursday. Shoemaker affirmed the COC is continuing ahead as planned, despite the rumoured cancellation.
“The Canadian Olympic Committee has confidence that the Games can be staged safely and successfully given what has been learned in sport over the last several months and the emphasis the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have placed on COVID-19 countermeasures,” Shoemaker said in a thread on Twitter. He added that “We continue in our preparation to participate at Tokyo 2020 with a focus on the health and safety of our athletes, their families, and their communities.”
We are unaware of any decision taken by the Japanese government as is being reported. Official information regarding the Games will be communicated through the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee. (1/3)
— David Shoemaker (@DShoemaker_COC) January 22, 2021
IOC responds to rumours
On Friday, the IOC responded to The Times reporting. The public statement labelled the sources claims “rumors” and asserted that news of the Games immanent cancellation “categorically untrue.”
“All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer,” the IOC statment reiterated.
IOC statement on media reports regarding Tokyo 2020 pic.twitter.com/647pj5mx9U
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) January 22, 2021