The postponement of Tokyo 2020 would entail the cancelation of the Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not brought under control by next year, the chairman of the organizing committee said in comments published on Tuesday.
The pandemic has already caused a year-long delay of the Games — which is now scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021 — but President Yoshiro Mori of Tokyo 2020 said that no further delay was necessary.
Mori was categorical when asked in an interview with Japan’s Nikkan Sports daily whether the Olympics could be postponed until 2022 if the pandemic remains a danger next year, replying: “No.” “In that case, it’s cancelled,” Mori said.
Mori noted that the Games had only been cancelled during the war, comparing the struggle against coronavirus with “fighting an unseen enemy.”
“We will keep the Olympics in peace next summer” he said, if the virus is successfully controlled. “Mankind is betting on it.” Masa Takaya, a spokesman for Tokyo 2020, refused to comment on a potential cancelation of the Games, telling reporters that Mori’s comments were based on “the thought of the chairman.”
Japanese organizers and the International Olympic Committee decided in March to postpone the Games for a year, despite strong pressure from athletes and foreign sports federations.
Organizers and Japanese officials have said the postponed Olympics would be an opportunity to highlight the world’s victory over the coronavirus, but concerns have arisen as to whether even a year’s delay is enough.
The head of the Japan Medical Association on Tuesday warned that hosting the Games next year would be “exceedingly difficult” if a vaccine was not found.
“I wouldn’t suggest they shouldn’t be kept, but that’s going to be incredibly difficult,” Yoshitake Yokokura told reporters at a briefing.
And a Japanese medical expert who criticized the response of the country to the coronavirus warned last week that he was “very pessimistic” that the postponed Olympics could be held in 2021.
“I don’t think the Olympics are going to take place next year, to be frank with you,” Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University, told a briefing.
But Takaya, spokesperson for Tokyo 2020 responded that even medical experts said it was too early to make a decision on such a possibility.
Mori also said in the interview that organizers considered organizing joint opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics and the Paralympics in an attempt to cut costs.
Under the program, the Paralympics will attend the opening ceremony on July 23, and the closing ceremony for the Olympics will be incorporated into the closing event for the Paralympics in September.
But Mori acknowledged that organizers in Tokyo had not yet received consent on that program from the IOC and their Paralympic counterparts.
“There’s going to be a substantial cost cut and a major message of triumph over the global crisis, but it’s not easy,” Mori said.