Japan insists Tokyo Olympics will go ahead as IOC rejects report of cancellation

Uche Amako
·3-min read
A man wears a protective mask amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in front of giant Olympic rings in Tokyo - Reuters
A man wears a protective mask amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in front of giant Olympic rings in Tokyo - Reuters

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC ) has reiterated its commitment to host the Tokyo Games this year and denied reports which claimed the event would be cancelled.

Much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of Covid-19 infections however Tokyo organisers have consistently vowed to press ahead with the Olympics and Paralympics, scheduled to begin on July 23, having been postponed in March last year.

A report in The Times quoted an unidentified senior member of the ruling government coalition as saying: "No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it's too difficult. Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."

But the IPC has dismissed the speculation and insisted that details about how the event will be staged are due to be unveiled next month.

“In early February, the IOC, IPC and Tokyo 2020 will publish the first editions of playbooks targeting Games stakeholders," the statement said. "These Playbooks will start to explain exactly how we aim to deliver this summer’s event and outline the personal responsibilities each person attending the Games must follow to ensure safe and secure Games.

“Compared to March 2020, we now know much more about how the COVID-19 virus behaves, much more about how to organise safe sport events during a pandemic and are encouraged by the international roll-out of several vaccines.

“By the time of the Games this summer, we are optimistic that daily case numbers will be much lower than during these dark winter months. We are also confident that the extensive testing programme to be implemented before, during and after the Games – one of several measures that will be taken targeting Games stakeholders - will help minimise the risk of virus transmission. Finally, each sport event that has taken place globally since the outbreak of the virus has provided us all with valuable learning experiences which are helping to continually shape our plans for Tokyo.

British Indoor Athletics Championships off
British Indoor Athletics Championships off

“There is no doubt the Tokyo 2020 Games will be very different to any previous Games and that this summer’s event looks a long way off right now. However, we believe that with the robust measures and plans we have in place, the Games can and will go ahead safely.”

A government spokesman added there was "no truth" to reports that the Games have been cancelled while the Tokyo 2020 organising committee also denied the claims, saying its partners — including the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee — were "fully focused" on hosting the games as scheduled.

Olympic committees from the United States and Canada wrote on Twitter they had not received any information suggesting the Games would not happen as planned.

Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases has forced it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.

In an interview ahead of Friday's report, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said he was cautiously hopeful that successful rollouts of coronavirus vaccines could help lead to the safe staging of the world's largest sporting event.

The Olympic Games represents a major milestone for Japan and its premier, Yoshihide Suga, who has said the event would bring "hope and courage" to the world.

The International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also reaffirmed his commitment to holding the Games this year in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday.

"We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo," Bach told Kyodo.

​The IOC has already awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 version to Los Angeles.