- The Times of London reported that Japan was planning to cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
- A source told The Times the “consensus” was that it’d be “too difficult” to go forward this year.
- Japan denied the report, with an official saying a decision would be made “at some point in time.”
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Japan is said to have decided the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are unlikely to happen, though the country is still publicly insisting they will go ahead.
A government source told The Times of London that officials had privately agreed to cancel the games, which had already been postponed by a year, with the new goal of hosting them in 2032, the next date that does not have a host city.
The Times quoted a “senior member of the ruling coalition” as saying the government had concluded that holding the games during the coronavirus pandemic was “too difficult.”
“No one wants to be the first to say so, but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the person told The Times. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
This year’s games, which kept the Tokyo 2020 branding, are scheduled to begin July 23, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.
Tokyo and 10 of Japan’s prefectures are in a state of emergency because of record infection rates, with restaurants and bars forced to close at 8 p.m., while foreign visitors are also barred from entering the country.
On Friday, though, Japan denied the report from The Times, insisting the games would go ahead as scheduled.
“We will clearly deny the report,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai said in a news conference, according to Sky Sports.
“At some point in time, we will naturally make a decision as to whether to actually hold [the games].
“Until then the Japanese government will do what it needs to do and make progress and prepare for it.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga added, according to LBC: “I am determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus.”
In addition to the Japanese government’s denial that the games will be scrapped, the International Olympic Committee issued its own statement Friday, saying it was “categorically untrue” that this was the case.
The Australian and United States Olympic Committees also denied speculation that the games had been cancelled.
“Any official communication on the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will come from the IOC, Tokyo Organising Committee and the Japanese government,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee wrote on Twitter.
“We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer.”
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll told reporters on Friday, according to ESPN: “The Tokyo Games are on. The flame will be lit on the 23rd of July 2021.”
He added: “But this will be a very, very different games. It’s not going to be like Rio or London â€” it’s going to be a simpler games.”
The 2020 Games will remain in limbo for some time
The status of the rearranged games has been up in the air for several weeks, with high-ranking IOC members already questioning the feasibility of the event while the pandemic continues.
Dick Pound, a senior member of the committee, said earlier in January that he “can’t be certain” that the games will go ahead this summer.
“I can’t be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus,” Pound said. “I would give it 3-to-1 odds of going ahead on the basis of what we know today,” he added.
The Japanese public is also turning against the games being held this year, with a poll from the national broadcaster NHK finding that only 16% of Japanese respondents said the Olympics should go ahead in July, while a combined 77% said they should be either postponed again or cancelled for good.
Thirty-eight per cent of those polled expressed support for cancelling the games, while 39% said they’d favour a postponement.
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