A prominent member of the International Olympic Committee said he “cannot be certain” that the postponed Tokyo Olympics will open in just over six months due to the growing pandemic in Japan and elsewhere.
Canadian IOC member Richard Pound’s comments to British broadcaster the BBC came as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures on Thursday.
“I can’t be sure because the elephant going on in the room would be pushing the virus,” Pound said of the future of the Tokyo Games.
Japan’s emergency order, which is largely voluntary, will be in effect until the first week of February.
Tokyo reported a record 2,447 new cases on Thursday, a 50% increase from the day before – which was also a record day. Japan has attributed more than 3,500 deaths to COVID-19, which is relatively low for a country of 126 million people.
It’s time for Tokyo. Organizers say the Olympics will take place, but they are not expected to reveal concrete plans until spring. This is around the same time the torch relay begins on March 25 with 10,000 runners crisscrossing the country for four months before the opening ceremony on July 23.
Pound also hinted that athletes should be a high priority for a vaccine because they serve as “role models.”
Pound’s comments appear to contradict IOC President Thomas Bach.
Bach said during a visit to Tokyo in November that athletes should be encouraged to get vaccinated, but would not be required to do so. He also indicated that they should not be a priority. Bach said nurses, doctors and healthcare workers should be the first to get vaccinated, ahead of healthy young athletes.
“Athletes are important role models and by taking the vaccine they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only a matter of personal health, but also of solidarity and consideration for the well-being of others in their lives. communities, ”Pound said.
Pound went further in a separate interview with UK channel Sky News. He said putting athletes first could be “the most realistic way forward”.
“In Canada, where we could have 300 or 400 athletes – take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million so that Canada is represented internationally, even of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be public outcry about it, ”he said.
Reports suggest that vaccine deployment in Japan will likely be slowed down by the need for local clinical trials. Some vaccines might not be readily available until May, although Suga said some will be ready in February.
The Japanese public is becoming skeptical. A poll of 1,200 people last month by national broadcaster NHK showed 63% were in favor of another postponement or cancellation.
The IOC said the Olympics, first delayed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, would not be postponed again and would be canceled this time.
The budget for the Tokyo Olympics is also booming. The new official budget is $ 15.4 billion, which is $ 2.8 billion more than the previous budget. The new costs are due to the delay.
Several Japanese government audits have indicated the costs are closer to at least $ 25 billion. In a study published four months ago, the University of Oxford said it was the most expensive summer Olympics on record. This was before the cost of delay was added.
Everything but $ 6.7 billion in Olympic funding is public money.
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