Olympics: Veteran IOC official Dick Pound says Tokyo Games not certain because of Covid-19 surges

The comments come on the back of Games host Japan declaring a limited state of emergency in Tokyo. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS, AFP) - A high-profile member of the Olympic movement has cast doubt on whether the rescheduled Tokyo Games will proceed in the summer.

The BBC has reported Canadian Dick Pound, 78, as saying: "I can't be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus."

His comments come on the back of Games host Japan declaring a limited state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo, and three neighbouring prefectures on Thursday (Jan 7) to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The Japanese government said the one-month emergency would run from Friday to Feb 7 in Tokyo and the Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, covering about 30 per cent of the country's population.

The measure comes just over six months before the virus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are due to open, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week insisted he was still committed to holding the Games as "proof of mankind's victory over the virus".

The Olympics organisers also emphasised on Friday that the coronavirus-postponed Games will still go ahead.

They have already said another postponement of the Games is out of the question.

And they insisted that the emergency would not derail plans.

"This declaration of emergency offers an opportunity to get the Covid-19 situation under control and for Tokyo 2020 to plan for a safe and secure Games this summer, and we will proceed with the necessary preparations accordingly," the organisers said in a statement.

But the emergency is likely to harden public opinion, with a majority already opposed to holding the quadrennial Games this year even before the third wave worsened.

Japan has yet to approve a coronavirus vaccine, with Mr Suga saying he hopes the first jabs can begin in late February.

The situation around the rest of the world is no better, with much of Europe and the United States also in the grip of a second or third wave of the virus.

The US counted a record number of daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday at nearly 4,000, during which the country notched 265,246 new infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

On Wednesday, the day England went into a lockdown, Britain recorded 62,322 new coronavirus infections and 1,041 deaths.

The same day, Portugal - a nation of just 10 million people - reported 10,000 new cases while Ireland closed its schools in a bid to bring its own infection rates under control.

There are also two variations of Covid-19 steadily making their way around the world. The British strain and another which emerged in South Africa are both believed to be more infectious versions of the virus.

The Games, originally set to take place last year, have been postponed till July 23 to Aug 8.

Pound, the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) longest-serving member, is one of the Olympic movement's most vocal officials. A former chief of the World Anti-Doping Agency, he was one of the first IOC members to indicate early last year that the Tokyo Olympics were in doubt because of the pandemic.

That eventually came to pass with the IOC and the Japanese government jointly announcing that in March that the Games would be delayed by a year.

On Thursday, Pound told Sky News that "the most realistic way of it going ahead" would be for athletes to be vaccinated before the Olympics, suggesting that Tokyo-bound athletes should be given priority access to the coronavirus vaccines.

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