Japan Denies 'Categorically Untrue' Rumors of 2021 Tokyo Olympics Being in Doubt

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2021

People wearing a face mask walk by the Olympic rings outside Japan Olympic Museum near National Stadium, where opening ceremony and many other events are planned for postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press

The Japanese government released a statement Friday saying rumors it's been decided the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic are "categorically untrue."

Richard Lloyd Parry of The Times reported Thursday the Japanese government had "privately concluded" the Games are "doomed" and the focus had already shifted toward trying to secure the next available Olympics in 2032.

"No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it's too difficult," a source told Parry. "Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."

The International Olympic Committee posted its response, as well as the government's statement, on Twitter:

IOC president Thomas Bach told Ayano Shimizu of Kyodo News he continued to operate under the belief the Olympics would move forward as scheduled.

"We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo," Bach said Thursday.

He added there would likely be "sacrifices," including a reduced number of spectators, with the Games held with a "safety first" mindset.

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"This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful," Bach said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office in September, also cautioned no final decision has been made despite reports to the contrary.

"I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus," Suga told parliament Friday, per the Washington Post's Simon Denyer.

The logistical concerns of trying to host a major sporting event with players from around the world during a global pandemic have already been on display, though.

Ahead of the 2021 Australian Open, the first tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year, there are 72 players facing a "hard quarantine" where they won't be able to leave their hotel room for 14 days because of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the flights bringing them to the country.

The Australian Open typically features a couple hundred players between the qualifiers and the final singles and doubles draws. The number of athletes expected for the Olympics is over 11,000.

Although vaccines have started to roll out around the world, the focus during the early stages is on the elderly population and those with preexisting conditions that make them more likely to deal with major complications from the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday a "degree of normality" may return this year, but not until the fall.

So there are plenty of questions about whether it will be safe to hold a wide-scale Olympics starting in July, but the Japanese government made it clear a cancellation decision hasn't been made yet.