Asia & Pacific

Show Must Go On: Tokyo Olympics Chief Reiterates 2021 Games Will Not Be Canceled

The Tokyo Games were initially expected to be held over a 17-day period, starting in late July 2020. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was postponed, making this the first time in modern history the tournament has been postponed. Concerns have been repeatedly raised on whether the Summer Olympics will be held.

Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Tokyo Olympics, confirmed on Friday that the historic sporting games will be held in three months’ time, once again reassuring the public after a fellow Japanese official suggested otherwise.

Hashimoto reaffirmed the public during a news conference that the games would indeed be held, telling reporters that “there are a variety of concerns [surrounding the tournament] but as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee we are not thinking about canceling the games.” 

At the time, the committee head was asked whether there were any conditions in which the Summer Olympics would be fully canceled, especially now as Japan has recently begun to record a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Figures released by Worldometer note that Japan has been registering thousands of new cases over the last week, with officials recording some 4,000 new cases on Thursday alone. The site indicates that Japan has a 3-day moving average of 3,294 new COVID-19 cases.

To date, the island nation has documented approximately 516,121 novel coronavirus cases as the associated death toll has reached roughly 9,500, a Thursday release issued by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has revealed.

Hasimoto’s remarks came hours after Toshihiro Nikai, the general secretary of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters during a Thursday event that canceling the 2020 Games is “of course” still an option for organizers. Nikai had also stated that if the games caused a spike in COVID-19 cases, “there would be no meaning to having the Olympics.” 

Hashimoto addressed Nikai’s remarks, explaining that the official’s concerns were largely mirrored by the Japanese public. A Sunday poll conducted by Kyodo News found that about 80% of Japanese residents believe both the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics should be either canceled or rescheduled once again. 

The start of the Olympic games is currently scheduled for July 23, with an estimated 11,000 athletes expected to participate. Another 4,400 athletes will be taking part in the Paralympics, which start on August 24.

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