Tokyo Olympics to happen next year, despite coronavirus pandemic

The Olympic rings float in the water at sunset in the Odaiba section in Tokyo. Photo: AP | PTI
International Olympic Committee’s Vice-President John Coates said the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead next year regardless of the coronavirus situation, AFP reported.

Coates told AFP in a phone interview the Games will start as planned on July 23 “with or without Covid,” stressing that the Olympics have never been cancelled outside of world wars.

It will be the “Games that conquered Covid,” the head of the IOC’s coordination committee for the Tokyo event said. The Olympics, which was postponed by a year as the coronavirus pandemic infected millions around the world, was an event outgoing premier Shinzo Abe had said would mark humanity’s victory over the virus.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said while he has not aware of the details of the comments from Coates, the government will continue discussing anti-virus measures for the Tokyo Olympics.

“The government will continue to work closely with the organising committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government to hold the games in a safe way for both the athletes and spectators,” Suga, seen as the front-runner to succeed Abe as the next prime minister, told a briefing in Tokyo.

Shares of Dentsu Group Inc., the advertising giant responsible for assembling the richest sponsorship pool in the history of the games, ended up 4.7% after rising as much as 7.1% on the AFP report.

Virus experts have warned that the Olympics was unlikely to happen even in 2021 as the pandemic won’t be contained in time, and even if developed, a vaccine would take years to reach some of the poorer countries. Speculation the games will be canceled had increased after IOC members hinted at that possibility to various media in May.

In Japan, only one in four said they support holding the Games, according to an opinion poll conducted by Kyodo News in July.

The organizers and the Japanese government faced criticism for being slow to provide clarity when the Olympics was postponed in late March. Various organizing members had sent conflicting messages, while Japanese officials until few weeks before the cancellation were unanimous in insisting the games would be staged as scheduled.

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