Tokyo: The postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will have to be cancelled if the coronavirus pandemic isn’t brought under control by next year. This has been said by the organising committee’s president Yoshiro Mori
The comments were made during an interview with a Japanese sports daily published Tuesday. It came as medical experts doubted whether the pandemic can be sufficiently contained by next year. In that case an event drawing participants and spectators from around the world will have to be cancelled again.
The pandemic has already forced a year-long delay of the Games, which are now scheduled to open July 23, 2021. The Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori was categorically asked by the ‘Nikkan Sports’ daily whether there is the possibility of the Games being delayed again till 2022. “No. In that case, it’s cancelled,” Mori said.
Mori noted the Games had been cancelled previously only during wartime. He compared the battle against coronavirus to ‘fighting an invisible enemy’. “If the virus is successfully contained, we’ll hold the Olympics in peace next summer,” he said. “Mankind is betting on it,” he added.
Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesman, declined to comment on a possible cancellation of the Games. He told reporters that Mori’s remarks were based on ‘the chairman’s own thoughts’.
But the comments will add to growing questions about the postponement which was implemented last month. It came after heavy pressure on the organisers and the International Olympic Committee from athletes and sports federations.
The head of Japan Medical Association also issued the same warning Tuesday. He said it would be ‘exceedingly difficult’ to hold the Games next year if a vaccine has not been found.
“I would not say that they should not be held, but it would be exceedingly difficult,” Yoshitake Yokokura told reporters.
Last week a Japanese medical expert had criticised the country’s response to the coronavirus. He also warned that he was ‘very pessimistic’ that the postponed Olympics can be held in 2021.
“To be honest with you I don’t think the Olympics will be held next year,” said Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University.
“Japan might be able to control this disease by next summer, I wish we could, but I don’t think that would happen everywhere on earth. So in this regard I’m very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer,” said Iwata.
But Tokyo 2020 spokesman Takaya countered that even medical experts said it was too early to make a judgement on such a possibility.