The state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities due to the pandemic raises doubts about the delayed Games which were postponed to July.
Japan has denied a report that there was an agreement among officials that the Tokyo Olympics, which have already been delayed for a year, are “doomed” due to the still raging coronavirus pandemic and that the event will have to be canceled.
The Times, a British newspaper, said officials were scrambling to find a face-saving way to announce their decision.
“Nobody wants to be the first to say it, but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” The Times said, citing an anonymous senior official.
“Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
In response, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai said there was no truth in the report and the Games organizers said all partners in the event, including the government Japan and the International Olympic Committee, were “fully focused” on hosting the Games this summer.
Just over six months before the start of the already postponed Olympics, doubts have arisen over the viability of the massive international event, with the pandemic still on the rise globally and vaccinations lagging behind.
Japan has been hit less hard by COVID-19 than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases has prompted the country to close its borders to non-resident aliens and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and the main cities.
Health officials on Thursday reported 5,652 new cases and at least 94 deaths.
Muted public support
The pandemic has already dampened public support for the Games, initially scheduled for last year. Polls show that up to 80% of people do not want the event to take place.
Doubts have also been raised internationally. Former London 2012 vice-president Keith Mills said this week he thought the Games looked “unlikely”, while Britain’s Olympian Matthew Pinsent said it was “ridiculous” that the event takes place.
But Japanese Olympic officials and organizers continue to push forward with preparations for the Games, which are slated to open on July 23.
On Thursday, the Japanese government announced it would spend $ 3.7 billion on the Games.
In an interview with the Kyodo news agency on Thursday, the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach also reaffirmed the IOC’s commitment to the event.
“We have no reason at this time to believe that the Tokyo Olympics will not open on July 23 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium,” Bach told Kyodo.
Earlier this week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the event “will bring hope and courage to the world.”
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto also told AFP news agency this week that organizers were “steadfast” in their commitment to host the Games.
But he admitted he could not guarantee that the stands would be full, nor rule out the possibility of holding the Games without spectators.