KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer will go ahead – at least, according to the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government.
Am insistent statement to that effect, in defiance of rising tide of doubt around the world, has been issued by the Japanese government and endorsed by the Olympics’ governing body.
The continued ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic – not least in Japan itself – has fuelled speculation of a historic first-ever peaec-time cancellation.
The IOC said: “Together with its Japanese partners and friends the IOC is fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paraympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year.”
Last year the Games were postponed because of the pandemic and, despite the prospects offered of vaccination, the outlook is uncertain. Lord Seb Coe, president of World Athletics which runs the central sport in the Games, has accepted the possibility that competition may need to take place in empty venues.
The Japanese government has refuted reports of an internal assessment accepting cancellation.
Its own statement said:
Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus.
This is categorically untrue.
At an IOC executive board meeting in July last year it was agreed that the Opening Ceremony y would be held on July 23 this year and the programme and venues for the Games were rescheduled accordingly.
All parties involved ae working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer.
We will be implementing all possible measures against Covid-19 and will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer.
The statement is hardly reassuring, based on a rescheduling plan patched together in the middle of last year and offering no comment whatsoever about the outcome of counter-measures to deal with the pandemic, its deadly continuance in Japan and around the world.
Early March is the most likely moment when tough decisions may have to be not only considered but enacted.
Similar statements of resistance were issued by the other organising bodies.
Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai told a press conference: “We would like to fully deny (the report) by saying there is no truth to it. Of course we have to take into account the situation abroad, and we will decide on whether to actually hold the event at some point, but until then, the Japanese government will do what needs to be done.”
A statement from the Metropolitan Government said: “[We] will continue to exert utmost efforts in order to materialise holding a safe and secure Games in close collaboration with all parties concerned such as the Japanese Government, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee.”
In fact, the International Paralympic Committee was the only one to confront the pandemic issue directly.
By the time of the Games this summer, we are optimistic that daily case numbers will be much lower than during these dark winter months.
We are also confident that the extensive testing programme to be implemented before, during and after the Games – one of several measures that will be taken targeting Games stakeholders – will help minimise the risk of virus transmission.
Finally, each sport event that has taken place globally since the outbreak of the virus has provided us all with valuable learning experiences which are helping to continually shape our plans for Tokyo.