Tokyo 2020 chief expects vaccine rollout to aid Games
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[January 22, 2021]
By Jack Tarrant and Hideto Sakai
TOKYO (Reuters) - Six months from the
start of the rearranged Olympics, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto is
cautiously hopeful that successful rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines can
help lead to the safe and successful staging of the world's largest
Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese
government made the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games for
a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With cases still surging in Japan and across the globe, Tokyo
organisers are determined there will be no further delay to the
Muto stressed in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that vaccines
would help the staging of the Olympics although they are not a
"Once vaccinations are conducted widely in the U.S. and Europe, I
think there is no doubt that it will have a positive effect (on the
Games)," said Muto in the Tokyo 2020 offices overlooking the
newly-built Athletes’ Village.
"However, it doesn’t solve everything."
"We are hopeful about the vaccines, but at the same time, I think it is
inappropriate to be totally dependent on it," he added.
DWINDLING PUBLIC SUPPORT
A key feature of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Games was the huge wave of
public support behind the venture but this has evaporated amid the
A recent Kyodo News poll found that 80% of Japanese surveyed want the
Games to be either cancelled or postponed again.
Muto acknowledged this was a concern, but was hopeful a combination of
vaccines and other coronavirus countermeasures would alleviate public
"As vaccinations are conducted to some extent, I expect public opinion
will get generally relieved. And I think there is a possibility that it
makes it easier to hold the Games," he said.
"It is natural that people would be very worried about it. But we hope
the situation will definitely be improved and under such a situation, I
think public opinion will be improved as well."
Last year, the postponement decision was taken days before the start of
the torch relay, which has led to speculation that any pronouncement on
the Games would come before the rearranged torch relay begins on March
In an interview with Japan's Nishi Nippon newspaper on Thursday, Tokyo
2020 President Yoshiro Mori said a decision on whether the Games would
go ahead this year would come before the torch relay starts.
[to top of second column]
Toshiro Muto, Tokyo 2020
Organizing Committee Chief Executive Officer, poses for a photograph
with a stuffed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa during an
interview with Reuters ahead of the six-months countdown to the
Tokyo Olympics that have been postponed to 2021 due to the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan January 21,
2021. Picture taken January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato
However, Muto stressed to Reuters that this was not the case and no
timeframe had been discussed.
"Same as cancellation, the postponement hasn’t been (discussed)," he
"There is no connection between the torch relay and such decisions."
The Reuters interview with Muto, which was embargoed, took place
before The Times article suggesting Japanese government had made
decision to postpone Olympics [L1N2JW34O].
The IOC has consistently stressed that athlete safety is its most
important goal and Tokyo 2020 organisers have come up with a raft of
measures to achieve this, such as social distancing in the Athletes’
Village and a stringent testing regimen.
Athletes, however, will not have to undertake a two-week quarantine
when arriving in Japan.
Tennis players currently in Melbourne for the Australian Open have
had to quarantine for a fortnight, leading to a variety of issues.
Muto is keen to avoid something similar when 15,000 international
athletes descend on Tokyo.
"It is a reasonable idea to implement 14-day quarantines. We
considered that," he said.
"However, it is very inappropriate to ask athletes to be in a
situation in which they cannot practise for two weeks before their
matches. This is the conclusion."
Unlike last year, when fireworks illuminated Tokyo Bay amid much
fanfare and anticipation six months out from the Games, there are no
events planned for Saturday, as organisers quietly prepare for an
Olympics like never before.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Hideto Sakai; writing by Jack
Tarrant; editing by Toby Davis)
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