SANTE-CORONAVIRUS-JO-JAPAN: Tokyo denies having resigned itself to canceling the Olympic Games
par Takashi Umekawa et Chris Gallagher
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government on Friday dismissed press reports that it would consider the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics, due to take place next summer, inevitable because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a press briefing, a government spokesperson said “strongly denies” the possibility of a cancellation, adding that the article published earlier by The Times was wrong.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told parliament that he is determined that the Tokyo Olympics take place as planned.
Citing a high-ranking source within the ruling Tokyo coalition, The Times reported that the Japanese government has come to the conclusion internally that the Olympics will have to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tokyo was initially scheduled to host the 32nd edition of the Summer Olympics last year, but Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had decided to postpone the event for one year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Olympics are currently scheduled from July 23 to August 8, 2021.
The Tokyo Games Organizing Committee said all partners, including the Japanese government and the IOC, were “fully focused” on hosting the events this summer.
Via Twitter, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it had not received “any information suggesting that the Games will not take place as planned” and that the preparation of American athletes was continuing normally.
According to The Times, the Japanese government now aims to obtain the organization of the next Olympic Games, still unassigned, in 2032.
While Japan has been less severely affected by the health crisis than many other developed economies, a recent surge in new cases of contamination has forced the authorities to declare a state of emergency for the Tokyo region and to close its borders to foreign nationals who are not permanent residents.
About 80% of the Japanese population say they are against holding the Olympics in the capital next summer, recent opinion polls show, fearing that the massive influx of athletes from around the world will accelerate the spread of the virus .
In this context, writes The Times, the Japanese government seeks to preserve appearances by announcing the cancellation of the Olympics while leaving the door open to a subsequent organization of the event in Tokyo.
“Nobody wants to be the first to say it, but the consensus is that it is too complicated,” said the source quoted by the newspaper. “I don’t think they’re going to take place.”
(with Jack Tarrant, Mari Saito, Ju-min Park; French version Jean Terzian)