A man holding a cat in his bag visits a park where the giant Olympic rings are viewed, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Japanese officials denied a report Friday that this summer’s Tokyo Olympics games would be canceled, calling them “categorically untrue,” but challenges caused by a raging coronavirus remain.

The report from the Times in London said the Japanese government privately concluded that hosting the global games would be too expensive, too dangerous and just too difficult during a pandemic that has killed more than two million worldwide in less than 200 days. The games were already pushed to this summer after being delayed in 2020. Tokyo, a government source said, was now focused on securing the next available bid for the summer games, this one for 2032. 

“No one wants to be the first to say so, but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” the source said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Friday the Japanese government said it was “focused” on hosting the games. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach also pushed back against the reports. The local organizing committee said in a statement that it will make every effort to “prepare for safe and secure games.” The IOC echoed that statement by saying that it was “fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year.” The games are now set to open July 23, 10 months after they were postponed. 

Even so, there are reasons for doubt, including the uncertainty that Japan can pull off the vaccination of its 127 million residents, a massive, $14 billion project, by July. The country has enough vaccinations, but it is ranked near the bottom in vaccine confidence and is under a state of emergency because of the virus. Decorated distance runner Sebastian Coe, the head of the international governing body for athletics and a member of the IOC, said he was confident the games would go on, and he hoped fans could attend as well. But Japanese residents don’t seem too eager to risk an infection: More than 75% said they want the Olympics to be postponed or canceled. 

“I would love to have fans, noisy and passionate,” Coe told the BBC. “But if the only way we’re able to deliver it is behind closed doors, I think everybody is accepting of that.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Japan denies report that Olympic Games could be canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic – CBS News – 1/22/2021
Exactly six months from the scheduled start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Japan’s government was vehemently denying reports on Friday that it had privately accepted the Games were doomed. A Thursday article by The Times of London, claiming officials had privately conceded that the already-rescheduled Olympics would have to be scrapped due to the pandemic, drew a sharp rebuttal from Tokyo.

Simone Biles hopes Olympics can still be held: ‘I’ll do anything’ to compete – Today – 1/22/2021
Simone Biles couldn’t help but hold her breath when she saw a British newspaper report on Thursday that suggested the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo, which have already been delayed a year due to the pandemic, might be canceled.

Why Japan’s Leaders Clinging to Their Olympic Hopes – The National Interest – 1/22/2021
With the spread of COVID-19 steadily worsening in Japan since the onset of winter — daily records for infections and deaths continue to be broken — the fate of the Tokyo Summer Olympics is again very much in doubt.

Japan Tries To Remain Optimistic As COVID-19 Threatens To Cancel Tokyo Olympics – NPR – 1/22/2021
They dismissed an anonymously sourced report by the British newspaper The Times that there is a growing consensus within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that this summer’s games must be scrapped and that Japan should bid for the next available slot in 2032.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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