Japan denies Olympics will be cancelled
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[January 22, 2021]
By Jack Tarrant and Sakura Murakami
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan stood firm on
Friday on its commitment to host the Tokyo Olympics this year and denied
a report of a possible cancellation but the pledge looks unlikely to
ease public concern about holding the event during a pandemic.
Though much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave
of COVID-19 infections, Tokyo Olympic organisers have vowed to press
ahead with the re-scheduled Games, which are due to open on July 23
after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.
A government spokesman said there was "no truth" to a report in
Britain's Times newspaper that the government had privately concluded
the Games would have to be cancelled.
The Times, citing an unidentified senior member of the ruling coalition,
said the government's focus was now on securing the Games for Tokyo in
the next available year, 2032.
"We will clearly deny the report," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu
Sakai told a news conference.
Later, Japan Olympic Committee head Yasuhiro Yamashita told Reuters the
report was false and "a fabrication".
The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, said there had been no talk of
cancelling or delaying the Olympics and a protest should be lodged over
the Times report.
The Games organising committee also denied the report, saying in a
statement its partners including the government and the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) were "fully focused" on hosting the games as
"It is very disappointing to see that the Times is developing such a
tabloid-like story with an untrustworthy source," a source from the
organising committee told Reuters.
"The national government is fully committed to delivering a safe and
secure Games, and we are always encouraged by their dedications," the
The Australian and U.S. Olympic Committees said they were preparing for
the Games as planned.
"Unfortunately, I need to address unfounded rumours that the Tokyo
Olympic Games will be cancelled, rumours that only create more anxiety
for athletes," Matt Carroll, the chief executive of the Australian
committee, told reporters in Sydney.
"The Tokyo Games are on. The flame will be lit on July 23, 2021."
The Australian committee is run by the IOC's pointman for the Tokyo
Games, John Coates.
The U.S. and Canadian committees wrote on Twitter they had not received
any information suggesting the Games would not happen as planned.
[to top of second column]
A man stretches as the
National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and
Paralympics, is seen in the background ahead of the six-months
countdown to the Tokyo Olympics that have been postponed to 2021 due
to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at an observation
deck in Tokyo, Japan January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other
advanced economies but a recent surge in cases has forced it to
close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of
emergency in the Tokyo and other cities.
Tokyo reported new daily coronavirus cases of more than 1,000 for
nine straight days through Thursday and set a single-day record of
more than 2,400 infections earlier this month. The death toll from
the respiratory disease stands at nearly 4,900 people in Japan.
There are public fears that an influx of athletes will spread the
virus. About 80% of people in Japan do not want the Games to be held
this summer, recent opinion polls show.
In an interview ahead of Friday's report, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro
Muto said he was cautiously hopeful that successful COVID-19 vaccine
campaigns could help ensure the safe staging of the world's largest
The Olympic Games represents a major milestone for Japan and its
premier, Yoshihide Suga, who has said the event would bring "hope
and courage" to the world. Suga reiterated on Friday the Games would
go ahead as planned.
IOC President Thomas Bach reaffirmed his commitment to holding the
Games this year in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday.
"We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the
Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the
Olympic stadium in Tokyo," Bach said.
(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa, Chris Gallagher, Jack Tarrant and
Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel and Alison
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