TOKYO: Japan’s government has privately concluded the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Times reported, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition.
The government’s focus is now on securing the Games for Tokyo in the next available year, 2032, the newspaper said.
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases has spurred it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.
About 80 per cent of people in Japan do not want the Games to be held this summer, recent opinion polls show, over fears the influx of athletes will spread the virus further.
READ: With 6 months to go, cancellation fears cloud Tokyo Olympics
Against this backdrop, the government is seeking a way to save face by announcing a cancellation that leaves the door open to Tokyo hosting at a later date, the Times report said.
“No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the Times quoted the source as saying. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday that he was determined to realise the Tokyo Olympics, and will work closely with Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee. His comments came after the media report.
Games organisers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. Organisers and the Japanese government have previously vowed to press ahead with preparations for the Games, scheduled to open Jul 23.
Suga said earlier this week that the showpiece event would “bring hope and courage to the world”.
IOC president Thomas Bach reaffirmed his commitment to holding the Games this year in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday (Jan 21).
“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 told Kyodo.