Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled if can’t be held in 2021, Games official says

If the coronavirus remains a global threat and the rescheduled Summer Olympics can’t be held in 2021, they will be cancelled, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said.

Yoshiro Mori told Nikkan Sports of Japan in an article published Tuesday that the games won’t be postponed a second time. They were scheduled to be held July 24 through Aug. 9 but were reset for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021.

“No, in that situation, it will be cancelled,” he said. “In the past, when there were such problems, like wartime, it has been cancelled. This time, we are fighting an invisible enemy.

“This is a gamble for mankind. If the world triumphs over the virus and we can hold the Olympics, then our Games will be so many times more valuable than any past Olympics.”

The Summer Olympics were cancelled in 1916 amid World War I, and both the Summer and Winter Games were called off in 1940 and ’44 because of World War II.

The medical community in Japan is moving toward a consensus that holding next year’s Olympics may hinge on finding a coronavirus vaccine.

Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura said in a video media conference on Tuesday that the Olympics were possible only if the infections were under control, not only in Japan, but globally.

“In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Yokokura said.

He did not say whether he opposes the Olympics without vaccines.

Japan has reported 13,576 COVID-19 cases, and 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year. On Tuesday, the health ministry reported 389 total deaths from the virus.

WATCH | IOC’s Dick Pound believes in Olympic movement despite tough times:

With Tokyo 2020 out on hold, Rob Pizzo looks at past games that got cancelled, or had countries stay home. 3:35

A Japanese professor of infectious disease said last week he was also skeptical the Olympics could open in 15 months.

“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympics Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” said Kentaro Iwata, professor of infectious disease at Kobe University.

Devi Sridhar, a professor of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh, also said holding the Olympics may depend on finding a vaccine. This could also apply to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in China, where the coronavirus was first detected.

She said a vaccine was “optimistically 12 to 18 months away.”

ICYMI | Times when the Olympics were cancelled or postponed: 

CBC Sports’ Scott Russell spoke with International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound about the power of the Olympics and why it’s important to still hold the 2020 Games. 4:00