Organisers call Olympic cancellation report 'fake news'

Tokyo 2020 organisers have drawn up a raft of anti-virus guidelines that they say will allow the Games to go ahead without a vaccine.
Tokyo 2020 organisers have drawn up a raft of anti-virus guidelines that they say will allow the Games to go ahead without a vaccine.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO • Tokyo Olympics organisers played down a poll showing plunging support for the Games yesterday and said a report claiming cancellation could be discussed next month was "fake news".

The comments, less than 200 days before the postponed Games start on July 23, come with greater Tokyo under a month-long state of emergency over a spike in coronavirus cases and with countries around the world battling outbreaks.

In a New Year's address to staff, Tokyo 2020 chief executive officer Toshiro Muto put a positive spin on a Kyodo news poll published on Sunday showing 45 per cent want the 2020 Games delayed again, with 35 per cent favouring outright cancellation.

"The number of people calling for it to be cancelled has only risen by about five per cent," Muto said. "The number of people calling for it to be postponed has risen a lot, but that means those people still want it to be held.

"Of course, for it to be held, we have to guarantee that we hold a safe Games with anti-virus measures. If you think of it in those terms, I firmly believe people will get more and more behind it."

He also dismissed as "fake news" a Japanese media report claiming the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers would debate the fate of the Games next month.

"When these types of reports surface, some people might feel anxious about them," he said. "I want to say that we are not thinking that way at all, and that these reports are wrong."

British rowing great Matthew Pinsent yesterday called for the Games to be cancelled and Tokyo to host the event in 2024 instead.

The four-time Olympic gold medallist tweeted that it would be "ludicrous" to host an event with thousands of people flying in without being vaccinated.

He called for Tokyo to host the Games in 2024, with Paris taking over in 2028 and Los Angeles moving back to 2032.

  • 80%

  • Respondents to a Japanese news poll who are not in favour of the Olympics being held in Tokyo this year.

The Japanese government is expected to expand the state of emergency soon to other regions, and it has already lowered spectator caps at sports events in greater Tokyo to 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is less.

But Tokyo 2020 organisers have drawn up a raft of guidelines that they say will allow the Games to go ahead, even without a successful vaccine roll-out, and Muto said he was confident they will deliver.

"I think this is an amazing organisation," he added. "There had never been a postponement before in history, and that one word 'postponement' can't sum up the amount of work that needed to be done. We still have a lot to do, but we have overcome a lot and that gives us a lot of confidence as an organising committee."

Japan is not expected to begin vaccination before late next month.

Local media reported that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and philanthropist Bill Gates agreed yesterday that vaccines must be distributed to developing countries to ensure the safety of the Games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Organisers call Olympic cancellation report 'fake news''. Print Edition | Subscribe