The Tokyo Olympic Games will take place on July 23, “with or without COVID.” These were the words of John Coates, the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission chair and IOC vice-president, to Agence France-Presse.
Japan’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto backed up Coates statement in a press conference on Tuesday, saying “I think we have to hold the Games at any cost”
“The Games were going to be, their theme, the ‘Reconstruction Games’ after the devastation of the tsunami,” Coates said in the interview. He added, “Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The statement comes as many countries around the world struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic. With initial timelines for containing the pandemic long past, there is little certainty that the 206 countries expected to participate in the games will all have the virus contained.
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) September 8, 2020
Coates acknowledged the outbreak may not be contained, and that safely holding the Games is “a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side.” That does not, he suggested, prevent athletes from those countries from travelling to Japan.
“Some countries will have it under control, some won’t,” Coates said, adding “We’ll have athletes coming from places where it’s under control and some where it is not.”
In its effort to prevent the spread of the virus, Japan currently denies entry to people travelling from 146 countries and regions. There is time for some of these restrictions to be lifted, but it is not likely that all travel will be unrestricted by the time the Games begin.
Around 11,000 athletes are expected to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo.
At a minimum, it will be likely that athletes who are allowed to travel to Japan for the Games will be asked to spend two weeks in quarantine.
Cycling already returning to professional racing
Professional cycling has had success in its resumption of racing. On the road, a modified World Tour calendar has seen successful and safe racing for the women’s and men’s pro peloton.
The rescheduled Tour de France begins its second week, the first of the three Grand Tours to take place this year. The race has proceeded safely for the athletes, though Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has tested positive for COVID-19.
For mountain biking, the Enduro World Series resumed, though with a smaller field, in Zermatt, Switzerland at the end of August. Mountain bike World Cup racing is expected to return September 29 in the Czech Republic.