Tokyoites are convinced Olympic Games won’t happen this summer


TIME IS TICKING: A countdown display for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. AP Photo

Tokyo, March 23: The Olympics rings are up and the cute wide-eyed mascots are plastered across billboards and commuter trains, but people in Tokyo are increasingly convinced the Games won’t happen this summer.
After weeks of pressure from athletes and sports associations, the International Olympic Committee this weekend acknowledged postponement is a possibility, and on Monday Japan’s prime minister said a decision to delay over the coronavirus may now be “inevitable”.
For many in Tokyo, that hardly feels like news, after a steady drumbeat about the pandemic that has now infected more than 325,000 people and killed over 14,400 worldwide.
“There is no way we can hold it,” 75-year-old Noriko Shuzui told AFP as she shopped in Tokyo’s Ginza district on Monday. “Even if Japan had overcome the virus, if the world hadn’t we would receive no athletes, no spectators. No way we can do it.”
Japan has so far seen more than 1,000 infections and 41 deaths, but it has taken fewer measures to restrict daily life, scaling back but not cancelling a welcome ceremony for the Olympic torch last week.
Majority favour postponement
Still, the news from around the world appears to have convinced people that the Games cannot be held as scheduled, with 69 percent of respondents polled by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun daily they thought it was now better to postpone the event.
Just 17 percent thought it would be best to hold the Games as planned, with eight percent convinced the Olympics should be cancelled altogether, the weekend poll showed.
Shuzui said a postponement seemed necessary under the circumstances. “The first priority now is to fight the new coronavirus. Everyone was looking forward to it, so it would be sad and disappointing,” she said. “But we’ve got to take some measures.”
She had harsh words for organisers and officials who until this weekend had insisted the Games would be able to go ahead as scheduled. “I think it’s nonsense.”
Virus spreading
The IOC and Japanese officials have said cancelling the Games is not on the table, with a postponement now seemingly the likeliest option despite posing formidable logistical challenges.
“It would be sad if it has to be postponed,” said Yudai Yamamoto, a trading firm employee, who said he was glad that cancellation didn’t appear to be on the table. “I want to see the Games take place at some point,” the 22-year-old said.
Organisers have insisted that preparations were going ahead for the Games to open as scheduled on July 24, but the virus has already hit events from qualifiers to the torch relay.
Safety concerns
Despite calls for people to avoid gathering in crowds, tens of thousands of people flocked to see the flame being displayed in northeastern Japan over the weekend, raising questions about whether the relay will be altered over safety concerns.
Naonobu Terashima, a 78-year-old pensioner, told AFP he wanted a decision to be taken based on safety.
“I’m sure it was a great deal of effort to bid for and win the Olympics. But… I don’t think we should take the risk of harming people’s health,” he said.
Canada first country to pull out of Tokyo Games
Canada became the first country to pull out of the upcoming Tokyo Games. The Canadian Olympic officials announced this decision not to send a team in the summer of 2020 late on Sunday night and urged postponement of the Games in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes’ Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020,” the COC said in a statement on Sunday that ratchets up the pressure on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games scheduled to start on July 24.
The IOC has come under increasing pressure to push back the games from sporting federations and athletes worried about the health risks as the COVID-19 global death tally went past 13,000 on Sunday.
IOC president Thomas Bach said a decision on when the Games would take place would be made “within the next four weeks.”
No waiting for IOC decision
Canadian Olympic and Paralympic authorities, however, said they wouldn’t wait that long, urging the IOC to postpone the Games for one year while offering “our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring.
“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the COC and CPC said.
“This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health,” their statement added. “With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games.
“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”
That argument has become increasingly heard from athletes in countries where training facilities are shuttered and gatherings of people are banned in a bid to halt the spread of the disease.
IOC expected the crisis to end
The IOC has countered that by July, the global crisis could have passed and that postponing now would be premature and could cost some athletes a long-awaited chance at Olympic glory that might not come again.
Bach said the IOC was considering “different scenarios,” adding that complete cancellation of the games was not among them.
“We are thankful to the IOC for its assurance that it will not be cancelling the Tokyo 2020 Games and appreciative that it understands the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement,” the Canadian statement said.
“We also applaud the IOC for acknowledging that safeguarding the health and wellness of nations and containing the virus must be our paramount concern. We are in the midst of a global health crisis that is far more significant than sport.
“We remain hopeful that the IOC and IPC will agree with the decision to postpone the Games as a part of our collective responsibility to protect our communities and work to contain the spread of the virus.”
Shinzo Abe will make proper decision: Donald Trump on Tokyo Olympics
US President Donald Trump on Monday said that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the ‘proper decision’ and hinted that the final call on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be taken by Tokyo keeping in view the coronavirus outbreak in many parts of the world.
“We will be guided by the wishes of Prime Minister Abe of Japan, a great friend of the United States and a man who has done a magnificent job on the Olympic Venue, as to attending the Olympic Games in Japan. He will make the proper decision!” Trump tweeted.
Abe had said that the health of the athletes is the priority while hinting at the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tokyo Olympics is slated to be held from July 24 to August 9. (AFP/ANI)”If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way. We have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority to (the health of the) athletes,” Kyodo News quoted Abe as saying.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday said that they will make a decision within four weeks on the fate of the Olympics.