Updated: Jul 7
The previously postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are risking cancellation if the pandemic will not be sufficiently contained by next year, the organising committee's president warned, having to be further delayed.
Medical experts are seriously doubting the possibility to hold a massive event drawing participants and spectators from all over the world if Coronavirus will not be effectively controlled by next year.
After the official declaration of one-year Games delay – whose opening is now scheduled to start on July 23, 2021- Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori was very firm when asked by the Nikkan Sports daily whether the Games could be further delayed until 2022 in the case the pandemic continues to be a threat next year. His “No” for an answer didn’t leave room for imagination, adding that “In that case, it's cancelled”.
Mori noticed the Olympics were only cancelled once in history due to the World War and declared the planet is “fighting an invisible enemy” referring to Coronavirus.
If the virus will be successfully suppressed or effectively contained “we'll hold the Olympics in peace next summer”, he continues. “Mankind is betting on it.”
Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, refused to leave a comment on the possible cancellation of the Games and preferred declaring that Mori's statements were based on “the chairman's personal thoughts”.
Clearly, Mori’s assertions made the growing scepticism about the Olympics’ postponement real, a delay that was just decided last month after heavy pressures on the coordinators and the International Olympics Committee composed of athletes and sports confederations.
The head of the Japan Medical Association, Yoshitake Yokokura, on Tuesday publicly warned that it would be “extremely problematic” to hold the Olympics next year if a vaccine has not been found before.
Furthermore, it was only last week that a Japanese medical expert, who has condemned the country's response to the pandemic outbreak, informed that he was “very doubtful” that the now postponed Olympics can be held in 2021.
“To be honest with you, I don't think the Olympics will be possibly held next year,” said Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University.
“Japan might control this infection by next summer, I wish we all could, but I don't think that would happen in every country, so to this respect, I'm very suspicious about holding the Olympic Games next summer," he remarked.
Tokyo 2020 spokesman Takaya tried to respond and contain the widespread astonishment by reporting medical authorities’ statements, which declared it was too early to make a judgement on such a possibility.
Japanese officials and the IOC have observed the Games could represent a chance to celebrate victory over such a dreadful virus, with some plans about the incorporation of a pandemic fight symbol in the opening ceremony.
Undoubtedly, rescheduling the Games is an enormous logistical and financial challenge, with a still blurred final cost for the delay.
Mori said in the conference that the Games organisers were reflecting on holding joint opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics and the Paralympics, to try to contain the costs.
Within this project, the Paralympics would join the Olympics’ opening ceremony on July 23, and the Olympic closing ceremony would be in turn combined to the Paralympics closing event in September.
Mori also admitted that Tokyo managers had not yet got the consensus of the IOC and their Paralympic colleagues, so at the moment it remains only an idea on the table.
“It's going to be a substantial cut in costs and a big signal of victory against the global crisis, but it's not simple," Mori added.
Tokyo’s organisers have additionally raised the problem about the fact that who will sustain the additional costs is yet to be determined, though Mori said the IOC should cover a part of the costs.
“We should make a decision after both sides assess and fully comprehend them,” he concluded.
For now, the hope that Tokyo’s Games will be the victorious symbol of the end of a suffering and dramatic time still endures.