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Olympic organisers defiant in face of public pessimism

Gloomy outlook: hopes for the Olympic Games being held in Tokyo this summer continue to darken despite Japanese officials and Olympic organisers refusing to consider the prospect of cancellation

Japanese officials and Olympic organisers are determined not to consider the prospect of cancelling the rescheduled Games despite overwhelming public pessimism in the host country.

With little more than 150 days to go until the start of the Games, scheduled for July 23 to August 8, more than half of Japan's population find themselves under a state of emergency as a result of a sudden surge in cases this month, while vaccinations are yet to start.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, officials have continued to insist that the Games will go ahead, and that a further delay is not possible.

Organisers have announced a number of safety measures as part of plans to hold the Games. However, local polls are showing increasing wariness from the public.

In a survey conducted this month by a Japanese broadcaster, almost 80 per cent of respondents indicated their belief the Olympics should be postponed again or cancelled altogether. That is a dramatic increase from last October, when less than half of the participants responded in that way.

However, despite recent public doubts from Dick Pound, the longest-serving International Olympic Committee member and Taro Kono, a member of Japan’s cabinet, organisers remain hesitant to cancel the Olympics for the first time since the Second World War.

One reason could be because the host nation has already spent more than $12 billion building stadiums and improving its infrastructure to prepare for the Games, and billions more having already delayed the event by a year.

Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, previously stated that “postponing the Games again is not an option, and that if the event cannot take place this summer, it will not happen at all”.

The 2024 and 2028 Olympics have been already awarded to Paris and Los Angeles respectively.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo organising committee, appeared to reaffirm the position of the Games going ahead in a speech yesterday.

“Spring will definitely come,” he said. “After a long night, there will definitely be a morning. Believing so, I would like to work hard to the end so that we can give joy and hope to many people.”

Meanwhile, organisers say they are also not willing to see the event held behind closed doors and remain determined to host the Games even without vaccinations.

"Our position remains, we will deliver the Games," Masa Takaya, the official spokesman of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said to BBC Scotland. "We are not willing to see the Games taking place behind closed doors.

"We obviously want to see as many spectators as possible inside the venues, which is why we have been working tightly with the Japanese Government and all international stakeholders, spearheaded by the IOC. We will see in spring how we can accommodate spectators inside the venues.

"Our counter measures on Covid-19 are working under the assumption that we will not have a vaccine, so even if we do not, our plan is that we will be able to deliver the Games.“

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Published January 20, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 19, 2021 at 8:06 pm)

Olympic organisers defiant in face of public pessimism

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