After the IOC, it was the Japanese organizing committee’s turn to be optimistic. The Tokyo Olympics, postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will take place “whatever happens”, despite the evolution of the health crisis.
“We have to leave behind the debates about whether they are disputed or not. The question is how we will organize them», Insisted Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee, during a meeting between the Tokyo 2020 committee and the heads of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), in power in Japan. “Let’s reflect on this occasion on a new type of Olympic Games”, launched the former prime minister, while the Japanese organizers already expressed their willingness to make the Tokyo Games “A model” for future editions, which could also be faced with health crises such as covid-19.
Mori’s remarks come as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday a one-month extension of the state of emergency due to the pandemic, decreed in January in various departments of the country (including Tokyo and its periphery) for an initial duration of one month.
A tightening of the conditions of access to Japan for non-residents has already forced the postponement of several sporting events, including a synchronized swimming event that was to serve as an Olympic qualification tournament, now postponed to May when its scheduled date was the first of March. The olympic flame relay Through Japan it is maintained and in principle will begin on March 25.
The highly anticipated next stage will take place on Wednesday with the presentation by the organizers of the Tokyo Games of new details about their measures against the coronavirus. Difficult decisions on the number of spectators, with an eventual dispute behind closed doors, will be made in principle in the spring.
Thus, it is not impossible that for the first time in history the Olympic Games (July 23-August 8) followed by the Paralympic Games (August 24-September 5) are played without spectators, or with a very small number. .
But for the president of the International Paralympic Committee, the Brazilian Andrew Parsons, interviewed by AFP, “having a Games, even without an audience or only with Japanese spectators, is preferable to not having Games.” “We understand that the Games will not be the same without spectators, but their impact is very strong, and goes beyond the city and the organizing country,” he estimated, considering that the sacrifice is acceptable if the event can inspire large audiences.
A vast majority of Japanese public opinion is currently opposed to hosting the Games this year, fearing that this will exacerbate the pandemic in Japan, according to recent polls. But the organizers ruled out any further postponement or cancellation, and had the support of the International Olympic Committee and athletes from around the world. Thus, the German president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, swept last week the fears of a cancellation of the Games, appealing to “patience and understanding”, and promising a Games “safe” despite the pandemic. A message taken up on Tuesday by the Japanese minister in charge of the Games, the former speed skater Seiko Hashimoto: “Making the Games a success will be the test of a united world,” he said.
But the local population remains to be reassured. Several Japanese medical associations appealed to organizers to limit the number of spectators, noting that the Japanese health system is being overwhelmed by the current wave of infections. And all this while Japan has not yet authorized any vaccine, and in principle it will not begin to vaccinate its citizens before the end of February.