AGENCIES, Tokyo: The International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government last month agreed to postpone the Olympic Games until July 2021 because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Although, there’s about a year’s time for the revised event, the country’s health experts are not so sure that’s enough to go on. “Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year,” JMA president Yoshitake Yokokura told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“I’m not saying at this point that they shouldn’t be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan … it’s a worldwide issue.” The second reason for their worries is that the worldwide infection rate was climbing and experts suggesting a vaccine is still a long way off. The head of the Japan Medical Association (JMA) has said that the Tokyo Olympics, now due to be held next summer, could again be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, given these uncertainties associated with the pandemic, doubts are increasing in the minds of the organisers as days go by. Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori on Tuesday said that the Olympic Games, that have already been postponed to 2021, would be “scrapped” if it could not take place as rescheduled.
Asked in an interview with the Nikkan Sports newspaper if the event could be postponed again until 2022, Mori said: “No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped. In the past, when there were such problems, like war, they have been canceled. This time, we are fighting an invisible enemy.”
But Mori added that he was confident they would go ahead next year. “We have delayed the Olympics until next summer, after we have won the battle [against the coronavirus],” he said. “This is a gamble for mankind. If the world triumphs over the virus and we can hold the Olympics, then our Games will be many times more valuable than any past Olympics.” “We have to believe this, otherwise our hard work and efforts will not be rewarded.”
IOC member John Coates, who is overseeing preparations of the Tokyo Olympics, said this month it was still “too early to say” if the outbreak could further impact the Games. Coates said the IOC believed it had given itself “as much time as possible,” but conceded that the situation remained unpredictable.
“It may be there is still an issue about the number of people congregating and those things, testing on athletes,” he said. “It’s too early to say.” Japan has so far avoided a catastrophic coronavirus outbreak seen in the US and some European countries, with about 13,600 cases and 394 deaths, according to the health ministry.