Japan dismisses Olympics cancellation report

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan dismissed a report claiming officials see cancelling the Tokyo Olympics as inevitable yesterday, as heavyweights the United States (US), Canada and Australia said they were still preparing for the Games.

Deputy government spokesman Manabu Sakai said there was “no truth” to the report in The Times, which quoted an unnamed ruling coalition source as saying “the consensus is that it’s too difficult” to hold the Games.

It is the latest article to cast doubt on the troubled 2020 Olympics, which were postponed over the coronavirus last year but have been hit by a surge in cases and plunging public support.

However, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday insisted he was “determined” to hold the event “as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus”.

Tokyo 2020 organisers said they were “fully focussed on hosting the Games this summer”.

And the national Olympic committees of the US, Canada and Australia all said they were preparing to send teams to Japan.

File photo shows then Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose, Tokyo 2020 bid committee members and Tokyo metropolitan assembly members open an ornamental ball to celebrate winning the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo City Hall. PHOTO: AFP

The statements from Canada and Australia contrast with last year, when they withdrew their athletes before officials took the unprecedented decision to postpone.

However, despite denying the British report, Sakai said a decision was looming for Japan.

“At some point in time, we will naturally make a decision as to whether to actually hold it,” he said.

“Until then the Japanese government will do what it needs to do and make progress and prepare for it.”

Concerns have risen as Japan battles a third wave of COVID-19 infections, with polls showing around 80 per cent of Japanese oppose hosting the event this year.

The Olympics have never been cancelled in peacetime.

But International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said there was “no reason whatsoever” for them not to go ahead on July 23 as scheduled.

“This is why there is no plan B,” he told Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

Japan and the IOC took the historic step of postponing the Games last March after Australia and Canada said they would not be sending teams to Tokyo as the pandemic worsened.

On Friday, Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll ruled out another withdrawal, calling reports of the Games’ cancellation “unfounded rumour”.

“The Tokyo Games are on,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker also backed the Games, saying on Twitter that his organisation has “confidence that the Games can be staged safely and successfully”.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) stopped short of a vote of confidence, but said it remained focused on preparing for the Games.

“We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer,” the USOPC tweeted.