Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has said the Tokyo Olympics could not take place next year unless the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.
Meanwhile, John Coates, head of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Games, said the event was not contingent upon a vaccine being ready. Coates’ words come after a statement earlier this week by the president of the Japan Medical Association that it would be “difficult” for the Games to go ahead with an effective vaccine.
Reuters reported that Abe said: “We’ve been saying the Olympic and Paralympic Games must be held in a complete form, in that athletes and spectators can all participate safely. It would be impossible to hold the Games in such a complete form unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained.”
IOC president Thomas Bach later said his organisation “fully agrees” with Abe.
Reuters said Abe has “staked part of his legacy as Japan’s longest-serving premier on holding the Games”.
Japan’s infection and death numbers are relatively low, yesterday reported at 13,895 and 413, respectively. But the country’s hospitals have still been put under strain and yesterday Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike called for Abe’s government to extend the nationwide state of emergency, which is currently due to end on May 6.
Reuters reported that John Coates said JMA president Yoshitake Yokokura’s comment about the need for a vaccine was an “opinion”, adding: “the advice we’re getting from WHO (the World Health Organisation) says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine.”
The current target dates for the Olympics are July 23 to August 8, 2021. There is little margin for error as Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said 2021 is the only option to stage the rescheduled summer Olympic Games, adding that they would be “scrapped” if they cannot take place next year.
Coates continued: “A vaccine would be nice…But we will just continue to be guided, as we must be, by WHO and the Japanese health authorities because in all of this, the health and wellbeing of the athletes and other participants in the Games is the number one priority.”