Tokyo Olympics will be canceled, not delayed, if coronavirus pandemic still poses threat in 2021, top official says

Tom Schad
USA TODAY

Published 9:51 AM EDT Apr 28, 2020

The president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee says the Summer Olympics won’t be postponed a second time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If the Tokyo Games can’t be held during the recently-finalized time frame in the summer of 2021, Yoshiro Mori told Nikkan Sports that they will simply be canceled altogether. It would be the first cancellation in the history of the modern Olympics that didn’t stem from an ongoing war.

“No, in that situation, it will be canceled,” Mori told Nikkan Sports, a Japanese newspaper, in an article published Tuesday. “In the past, when there were such problems, like wartime, it has been canceled. This time, we are fighting an invisible enemy.”

The International Olympic Committee and Japanese government agreed late last month to postpone the 2020 Olympics because of COVID-19, which has killed more than 198,000 people around the world as of Monday. The Games are now scheduled to start on July 23, 2021 — nearly a year to the day after they were originally set to begin.

But even with the new dates now finalized, there has been lingering uncertainty about whether the Olympics will go on, even more than a year from now.

Tokyo Olympics will be canceled, not delayed, if coronavirus pandemic still poses threat in 2021, top official says 1

Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious disease at Kobe University, made headlines last week when he said he believes it is unlikely the Games will be held, largely because of the control measures that would have to be in place by that time. Other experts, both in Japan and around the world, have expressed doubt that the Games could safely be held without the presence of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura told reporters Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

The Summer Olympics are expected to draw roughly 11,000 athletes from 200 countries, in addition to tens of thousands of media members, staffers, coaches and fans. Experts warn that, in order to avoid a nightmare scenario, COVID-19 would have to be controlled not only in Japan — where it has left 351 people dead — but in all participating countries.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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