Tokyo: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will wrap up its final planning sessions Friday with Tokyo Olympics organisers. The meeting comes just two months before the Games are to open. Much of the focus is on persuading a skeptical public and medical community that the Tokyo Olympics should go ahead. The majority of the Japanese population is against the Games being hosted by Tokyo.
“We have much to do over the next three days,” IOC vice-president John Coates had said Wednesday on his arrival here.
The core problem is that 60 to 80 per cent of people in Japan don’t want the postponed Olympics to open in the middle of a pandemic. They are sticking to their guns despite repeated assurances from organisers that the Tokyo Olympics will be ‘safe and secure’.
There is no indication so far the Games will be cancelled. The IOC has repeatedly said they are going ahead. But the IOC’s most senior member Richard Pound had something else to say. In an interview with Japan’s ‘JiJi Press’, he said that the final deadline to call it off was still a month away. “Before the end of June, you really need to know, yes or no,” ‘JiJi’ quoted Pound as saying.
Pound repeated – as the IOC has said – that if the Olympics can’t happen now they will be cancelled. They will not be postponed again.
Kaori Yamaguchi is a bronze medalist in judo in the 1988 Olympics and a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee. He hinted in an interview with Japan’s ‘Kyodo’ news agency this week that organisers were cornered. She has been skeptical about going ahead. “We’re starting to reach a point where we can’t even cancel anymore,” Yamaguchi said.
Tokyo, Osaka and many other prefectures are under a state of emergency and healthcare systems are being stretched. Emergency measures are to end on May 31, but they are likely to be extended.
“If the current situation continues, I hope the government will have the wisdom not to end the emergency at the end of May,” Haruo Ozaki, head of the Tokyo Medical Association said.
Ozaki warned that if the emergency conditions are not extended, the virus and contagious variants will spread quickly. “If that happens, there will be a major outbreak. It is possible that holding the Games will become hopeless,” he added.
IOC president Thomas Bach is aware Japan’s medical system is stretched. He said Thursday that the national Olympic committees could provide ‘additional medical personnel’ to aid Japan. He gave no details, but this move would also add to the burdens on national Olympic committees.
Bach had to cancel at trip to Japan this month because of the virus, but is expected to arrive in Japan in July. Sources said he is scheduled to arrive 11 days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.