TOKYO (REUTERS) - There is no truth to a report about the possible cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai, a government spokesman, told reporters on Friday (Jan 22), denying a newspaper report that the event would be called off.
The Times reported on Friday that Japan’s government had privately concluded the already-delayed Tokyo Olympics would be cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, 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.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike also said that there was no talk of cancelling or delaying the Summer Olympics and that a protest should be lodged over the media report.
The Times reported Japan’s government had privately concluded the Tokyo Olympics would have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and that its focus was now on securing the Games in the next available year, 2032.
Games organisers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
The organisers and the Japanese government have consistently vowed they will press ahead with preparations for the Games, scheduled to open July 23 after having been postponed in March last year from the original 2020 date due the to the pandemic.
In early international reactions, both the Australian and United States Olympic Committees said on Friday they remained focused on preparing for the Games as now scheduled.
"Any official communication on the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will come from the IOC, Tokyo Organising Committee and the Japanese government," the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee wrote on Twitter.
"We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer."
Before the decision came to postpone the Games last year, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) was one of the first to say its country’s athletes wouldn’t be coming to Tokyo.
"The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and Covid-free," the AOC said in a statement.
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.
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."
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week said the showpiece event would "bring hope and courage to the world."
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach reaffirmed his commitment to holding the Games this year in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday.
"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," Mr Bach told Kyodo.