Head of Olympics Won't Rule Out Late Cancellation of Games amid Spread of COVID-19

Adam WellsJuly 20, 2021

This picture shows the Olympic rings standing in front of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 20, 2021 ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

Just three days before the Summer Olympics opening ceremony, there is still a chance the Games could be canceled amid a recent spread of COVID-19 among some of the athletes. 

Toshiro Muto, head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, told reporters during a Tuesday press conference a late cancellation hasn't been ruled out. 

"We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," said Muto. "We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."

Olympic officials have been steadfast about holding the event in Tokyo, despite calls from various groups to cancel. 

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association issued a statement on May 14 asking for the cancelation of the Tokyo Games because hospitals "have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity" due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. 

"We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games," the statement read. 

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto announced on July 8 that fans wouldn't be allowed to attend the Games. The decision came after Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo that will run from July 12 to Aug. 22. 

Per the Associated Press, Olympic organizers announced Tuesday that a total of 71 people accredited for the Games have tested positive for the virus this month. 

Due to a delayed rollout in Japan, only 34 percent of all citizens in the country have received either a full or partial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of July 19. 

There have only been three times in history that the Summer Olympics have been canceled. The 1916 Games were canceled due to World War I. The 1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics weren't held because of World War II. 

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8.