The Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 2021 ‘with or without Covid’, officials say 


The Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 2021 ‘with or without Covid,’ the International Olympic Committee vice president said today.

The Olympics has never been cancelled outside of the world wars and John Coates vowed that the competition in Japan would be the ‘Games that conquered Covid.’ 

‘It will take place with or without Covid. The Games will start on July 23 next year,’ said Coates, head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games.

‘The Games were going to be the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,’ he said, referring to a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed to next year (file photo of the Olympic Rings and the Japanese flag outside the Olympic Museum in Tokyo)

IOC vice-president John Coates said the Tokyo Olympics would be the 'Games that conquered Covid' (file photo of Coates at a previous press conference)

IOC vice-president John Coates said the Tokyo Olympics would be the ‘Games that conquered Covid’ (file photo of Coates at a previous press conference)

‘Now very much these will be the Games that conquered Covid, the light at the end of the tunnel.’ 

In a landmark decision, the 2020 Olympics was postponed because of the global march of the pandemic. The Games are now set to open on July 23, 2021.

But Japan’s borders are still largely closed to foreign visitors and a vaccine is months or even years away, feeding speculation about whether the Games are feasible at all.

Japanese officials have made clear they would not delay the event a second time beyond 2021.

There are signs that public enthusiasm in Japan is waning after a recent poll found just one in four Japanese want them to go ahead next year, with most backing either another postponement or a cancellation.

Coates said the Japanese government ‘haven’t dropped the baton at all’ following the postponement, despite the ‘monumental task’ of putting the event back a year.

A giant Olympic rings monument is seen at dusk at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan, 25 March 2020

A giant Olympic rings monument is seen at dusk at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan, 25 March 2020 

‘Before Covid, (IOC president) Thomas Bach said this is the best prepared Games we’ve ever seen, the venues were almost all finished, they are now finished, the village is amazing, all the transport arrangements, everything is fine,’ he said.

‘Now it’s been postponed by one year, that’s presented a monumental task in terms of re-securing all the venues… something like 43 hotels we had to get out of those contracts and re-negotiate for a year later.

‘Sponsorships had to be extended a year, broadcast rights.’

With much of that work underway, or accomplished, a task force has been set up to look at the different scenarios in 2021 — from how border controls will affect the movement of athletes, to whether fans can pack venues and how to keep stadiums safe.

The group, comprising Japanese and IOC officials, met for the first time last week.

‘Their job now is to look at all the different counter-measures that will be required for the Games to take place,’ said Coates, the long-time president of the Australian Olympic Committee.

‘Some countries will have it (Covid) under control, some won’t. We’ll have athletes therefore coming from places where it’s under control and some where it is not.

‘There’s 206 teams… so there’s a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side.’

The Tokyo Olympics venues are all ready, including the newly built National Stadium (pictured: a visitor poses for a pictures in front of the National Stadium)

The Tokyo Olympics venues are all ready, including the newly built National Stadium (pictured: a visitor poses for a pictures in front of the National Stadium)

Tokyo 2020 chief Toshiro Muto on Friday repeated that organisers hoped to avoid a Games without spectators — an option that has been mooted given Japan is still limiting audiences at sports events.

While the country is cautiously reopening its economy, with professional baseball, football and sumo resuming in front of limited numbers of fans, the nation continues to see a steady stream of new coronavirus cases.

Japan has already ploughed billions of dollars into the Olympics, with the delay only adding to the cost.

Coates said the IOC was doing its part, putting in ‘something like an extra $800 million to support the international federations, whose income isn’t happening this year, and national Olympic Committees’.

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