The Japanese government has insisted that the Tokyo Olympics will take place this summer despite reports that the games already postponed will be canceled due to growing concern over the level of Covid-19 infections.
Manabu Sakai, deputy chief secretary of the Japanese cabinet, said he had “completely denied” a report in The Times of London that the government had resigned itself to abandoning the games.
But officials of the Tokyo organizing committee have expressed concern over negative domestic sentiment around the Olympics, with Japan’s borders closed and the capital under. emergency state to combat a growing viral epidemic.
Organizers have said the next crucial decision – whether to authorize spectators or refund their tickets – will have to be made in the coming months, but that will not affect the continuation of the event. “For us, there is no limit or deadline before starting to receive athletes,” said a Tokyo 2020 official.
However, diplomats in Tokyo said National Olympic Committees around the world are expected to make definitive financial commitments to attend the Games by the end of March, creating a de facto deadline for hosts.
“Looking at the situation overseas as well, so of course at some point we will have to judge whether the games can play out,” Mr Sakai said.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed last March, despite repeated assurances that the event would go ahead as planned.
A Tokyo-based advisor to two global sponsors said if the International Olympic Committee wanted to cancel the games, it would most likely make a special request to the UN or the World Health Organization for formal advice.
Should this notice justify a cancellation, the IOC would be insured for the lost broadcasting costs and Tokyo would not have to pay compensation. “Neither party will admit that they want to cancel until this notice is given,” the person said.
A schedule of test events, some of which are also Olympic qualifiers, will begin on March 4. The torch relay is scheduled to begin in Fukushima on March 25.
Rather than force a cancellation, however, people close to the Tokyo organizing committee said there may be other qualifying arrangements if international athletes are unable to attend these events.
The Japanese government is expected to ease border restrictions if it wants the games to continue, but fears a domestic backlash given fears about new variants of Covid-19 circulating in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.
Tokyo organizers plan to hold the Olympics without vaccination because they don’t believe national vaccination campaigns will reach healthy young athletes by the summer.
Plans under discussion to deal with the pandemic include a program that would place around 10,000 doctors and nurses around Olympic venues to provide medical assistance.
Tokyo 2020 asked the National Olympic Committees about their plans to arrive early or camp before the games. Logistics include transporting horses for equestrian events and early access to venues to prepare for competitions.
But Haruo Ozaki, head of the Tokyo Medical Association, warned in an interview with Japanese media that the steep climb in cases of coronavirus had already put great pressure on medical staff. He called on the government to establish a clear guide indicating how far – and on what precise date – the number of cases should fall to justify the deployment of doctors and nurses to the Games.
Dick Pound, an IOC official, said Kyodo News this week: “No one can guarantee (that the Olympics will go as planned). But I think there’s a very, very, good chance that they can and will.