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Olympics - 08 Jan 2021
The local organising committee for this year's Tokyo Olympics has expressed confidence of a "safe and secure games" despite the Japanese capital having been placed under a state of emergency because of a rise in coronavirus cases.
The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were postponed by 12 months because of Covid-19.
Restrictions brought into place as of yesterday - including putting an upper limit of crowds at sporting events of 5,000 - will remain in place until 7 February at the earliest, and will not be lifted until cases in the city decline to under 500 a day.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to start on July 23, in under 200 days, and a spokesperson for the organising committee said: “This declaration of emergency offers an opportunity for Tokyo 2020 to plan for a safe and secure games this summer. We will proceed with the necessary preparations accordingly.”
Tokyo is now under the most severe restrictions it has faced since April last year, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said yesterday that the rise in infections had led to a “sense of crisis.”
A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee added: “The IOC has full confidence in the Japanese authorities and the measure they are taking.
“We continue to be fully concentrated and committed to the safe and successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.”
Despite organisers’ public displays of confidence, Dick Pound, the veteran IOC member from Canada, has said that he “can’t be certain [of the games going ahead], because the ongoing elephant in the room would the surges in the virus.”
He added that a large-scale vaccination programme would be the only way the games could go ahead with mass athlete participation, and that competitors from each country should therefore be prioritised.
Speaking to UK media, referring to how that would work in Canada, he said: “To take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature… I don’t think there would be any kind of public outcry about that.”
The total number of athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics is expected to be over 15,000, and although IOC President Thomas Bach said last November that athletes would be strongly encouraged to receive a vaccine, it is not planning to make it mandatory for them to participate.
The IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organisers have previously conceded that cancellation, rather than a further postponement, is the only course of action if the games cannot be held this year.
At the end of last month, all 68 domestic sponsors of the Olympics and Paralympics reached agreement to extend their deals to cover the events in 2021, with their total contribution now expected to reach $3.5 billion.