International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has reaffirmed his commitment to holding the Tokyo Olympics this year, saying there was “no Plan B” for the showpiece sporting event.
- The Tokyo Games are set to begin on July 23
- Mr Bach said there was no reason to believe the Games would not go ahead
- Japan recently declared a COVID-19 state of emergency in several regions including Tokyo
After the Games were postponed last year because of the global novel coronavirus pandemic, Saturday marks six months until the rearranged Olympics are due to start on July 23.
Despite dwindling public support and a surge in coronavirus cases across the world, organisers are adamant the Tokyo Games will go ahead.
“This is why there is no Plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful,” he added.
With the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on the horizon and rapidly escalating costs further reducing public support, Tokyo organisers have repeatedly ruled out postponing the Games again.
Japan has been less severely hit by the pandemic than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases spurred it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.
The country last week expanded a state of emergency to cover seven regions, including the capital Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures.
Expert says Olympics are too large a risk
Despite the optimism of the IOC and organisers, virus experts say hosting the world’s biggest sporting event during a once-in-a-century pandemic may be too big of a gamble.
With 15,000 athletes plus support staff expected to descend on Tokyo for the delayed Olympic and Paralympic Games from all over the world, the events represent a unique challenge for organisers.
“Do you have to risk that? Risk [it] by holding the Olympic Games? I don’t think so,” Kentaro Iwata, a prominent infectious diseases expert from Kobe University, told Reuters.
Health ministry official Kazuho Taguchi on Wednesday echoed comments from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that the Government was continuing with preparations as planned.
At this point, the plans are not “conditional” on the public or athletes being vaccinated against COVID-19, Mr Taguchi said.
Cancelling the Games, already set to cost Japanese organisers $US15.4 billion ($19.83 billion), would lead to huge financial losses.
But Mr Iwata, who rose to prominence with videos criticising the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February, doesn’t think holding the Games is the solution.
“Is it like the attitude of a bad gambler? The gambler who loses money just pours in [more] money to get it back,” he said.