Tokyo Olympics Will Happen Even in State of Emergency Due to COVID-19, IOC VP Says

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 21, 2021

The Olympic rings are seen lit outside the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo on May 17, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)
PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates said Friday that the Summer Olympics will go on in Tokyo beginning in July regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), Coates said the following during a virtual news conference:

"The advice we have from the WHO (World Health Organization) and all other scientific and medical advice that we have is that--all the measures we have outlined, all of those measures that we are undertaking are satisfactory and will ensure a safe and secure games in terms of health. And that's the case whether there is a state of emergency or not."

The 2020 Summer Games were originally supposed to take place last summer, but they were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were rescheduled to commence July 23 and run through Aug. 8.

Per the AP, polls have shown that Japanese citizens oppose the Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo during the pandemic at a rate between 60 percent and 80 percent depending on how the question is phrased.

Coates believes that will shift as more Japanese citizens get vaccinated, but the current vaccination rate in the country is 2 percent.

Even if the bulk of Japanese people remain against the Olympics, though, Coates said the event will move forward: "If it doesn't then our position is that we have to make sure that we get on with our job. And our job is to ensure these games are safe for all the participants and all the people of Japan."

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners' Association called for the cancellation of the Olympics in an open letter to several Japanese politicians and Olympic organizers on May 14.

The IOC noted it is taking steps to ensure the safety of the general public, though, by having most of those participating in the Summer Games vaccinated.

Of those staying in the Olympic Village, including 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians, over 80 percent of them are expected to be vaccinated.

Those athletes also will be "largely cut off" from the general public, thus creating an Olympic bubble of sorts.

While Coates made it clear that the plan is for the Olympics to continue as scheduled, IOC member Dick Pound told Japan's JiJi Press a final decision doesn't have to be made until next month.

If the IOC does reverse course and decide against holding the Olympics, Pound said they would be canceled rather than postponed again.