Tokyo Games face sceptics, one-day COVID-19 infection record

TOKYO (AP) — The spokesman for the Tokyo Olympics expects the postponed games to go ahead in 2021 despite a recent poll in Japan in which 77 per cent of respondents said they did not believe the games could be held next year.

The poll by the Japan News Network said only 17 per cent thought it could be held next year in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Spokesman Masa Takaya said this yesterday on a day of contentious news for the Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo’s city government reported a single-day record of 224 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, surpassing a high of 204 in April. Though low by many standards, it marks a steady increase over the last week in the Japanese capital. Japan has recorded about 1,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Takaya said the way the polls are constructed “may result in very different messages”. He said Tokyo’s only plan was to open the games on July 23, 2021. Also, Takaya did not flatly deny a leaked report in almost all Japanese media that said organisers were on track to secure all venues for next year’s Olympics.

“Tokyo 2020 is aware of these media reports,” Takaya said.

“I need to be very clear that this is not something that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government or the organising committee has made a formal announcement on.”

The Olympic rings float in the water at sunset in the Odaiba section in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

Details of any progress are sure to be presented next week at scheduled meetings of the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee (IOC). Organisers had previously said that 80 per cent of the venues had been secured. Few expect local venue owners to defy the Japanese government, or the IOC, particularly if there are incentives in the new contracts.

Estimates in Japan put the cost of delay at USD2 billion to USD6 billion. The IOC and local organisers have not given any estimate.

A poll published last month by Japanese news agency Kyodo and a Tokyo television outlet found that 51.7 per cent did not think the games should be held next year. But 46 per cent wanted to see the rescheduled Olympics go forward.

Among those opposed, 27.7 per cent said they should be cancelled altogether, and 24 per cent said they should be postponed again because of COVID-19. The IOC and local organisers have ruled out another postponement and said they will be cancelled if they do not happen in 2021.

Takaya also dismissed a recent comment attributed in Japanese media to President of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee Yoshiro Mori. Mori reportedly said April was the deadline for deciding to go ahead with the Olympics.

“We don’t know in what kind of environment he might have made” such a comment, Takaya said. “In that respect, we don’t even know if he made such a comment.” Takaya added, “We do not have any such deadline.”