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Tokyo Olympics: a state of emergency for Japan and the IOC

Japanese government says there’s ‘no truth’ that the games will be cancelled because of Covid-19

In March last year Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), declared that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021 would provide a light at the end of a “dark tunnel” that is the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ten months after the games were delayed by a year, the world still seems quite gloomy.

With just six months to go until the start of the Olympic Games, and seven until the start of the Paralympics, doubts are again growing over whether Tokyo will host the mega sporting events in 2021 - or even at all. 

Government deny cancellation report

The Japanese government has “privately concluded” that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus, The Times reported on Thursday.

Plans to host this year are “doomed”, according to a senior member of the ruling coalition, and there’s speculation that Japan is now focussing on securing the games for Tokyo in 2032 - the next available year after Paris and Los Angeles. 

“No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the source told The Times. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

In response, a government spokesman said there was “no truth” to the newspaper’s story, Reuters reports. Tokyo Olympics organisers have vowed to press ahead with the rescheduled event, which is due to start on 23 July. At a news conference deputy chief cabinet secretary Manabu Sakai said: “We will clearly deny the report.” 

The opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo

The National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan

Carl Court/Getty Images

State of emergency 

With cases in the country surging, Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to seven more prefectures, the Associated Press reported last week. This affects more than half of the 126m population. 

A state of emergency was previously declared for Tokyo and the three neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa. The emergency declaration, which includes many restrictions on daily life, will be in place until 7 February, CNN said.

The Japan Times reported that 1,592 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Tokyo on Sunday. This is nearly 100 more than the record for a Sunday set last week. The cumulative total of cases in the capital is now 85,470.

Poll: 80% against games taking place

In a poll conducted by Kyodo News, it was found that “around 80%” of people in Japan believe the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics should be cancelled or rescheduled.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to “cast a cloud over the sporting event” and a resurgence of infections have “increased the strain on the country’s medical system”, the news agency reports. 

The survey said 35.3% called for the cancellation of the games, while 44.8% say the event should be postponed for a second time. 

Pinsent: ‘ludicrous’ to stage Olympics in 2021

Four-time Olympic gold medal winner Matthew Pinsent believes the Olympic cycle should be shifted and says the IOC needs “courageous leadership” in making a decision.   

The British rowing icon said on Twitter: “My own view is that the Summer Olympic queue should be asked to shift. Tokyo given the option of delayling until 2024, Paris move to 28 and LA 32. The athletes lose an Olympics but that’s looking likelier by the day.”

In a separate tweet, he added: “Once again the IOC need courageous leadership. The idea of Olympic athletes/officials/delegations getting vaccine priority is antithetical. The risks of an event with 000’s of people flying round the world to gather unvaccinated is ludicrous.”

The Olympic Games are set to take place in Tokyo from 23 July to 8 August. And the Paralympics are scheduled from 24 August to 5 September. Paris will host the games in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028

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