The Australian Olympic Committee is pushing ahead with planning for the Tokyo Games despite a bombshell report the event will be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to The Times, Japan’s government has privately concluded the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled, citing an unnamed senior member of the ruling coalition.
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The report claims the government’s focus is now on securing the Games for Tokyo in the next available year, 2032.
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases has spurred it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.
About 80 per cent of people in Japan do not want the Games to be held this summer, recent opinion polls show, over fears the influx of athletes will spread the virus further.
Against this backdrop, the government is seeking a way to save face by announcing a cancellation that leaves the door open to Tokyo hosting at a later date, The Times report said.
“No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult,” The Times quoted the source as saying. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
However the Australian Olympic committee issued a statement soon after the report was published, saying they would continue to plan for the Games to go ahead.
“Both Japanese Prime Minister Suga and IOC President Bach have this week strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Tokyo Olympic Games going ahead in July this year,” the AOC said in a statement on Friday.
“The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free.
“The AOC, Federal Government, Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council are continuing to progress the candidature for the Olympic Games to be held in Queensland in 2032 - and that process continues.”
Response from the Australian Olympic Committee amid reports Tokyo Games will be cancelled. pic.twitter.com/ksUuUoYfSf
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) January 22, 2021
Japanese government previously stood by Tokyo Olympics
Organisers and the Japanese government have previously vowed to press ahead with preparations for the Games, scheduled to open on July 23.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week said the showpiece event would “bring hope and courage to the world.”
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach reaffirmed his commitment to holding the Games this year in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday.
“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 told Kyodo.
The possibility of holding the Games behind closed doors has understandably been raised, but spokesperson Masa Takaya told the BBC that organisers are "not willing" to entertain that possibility.
"We are not willing to see the Games taking place behind closed doors," he said.
"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. We also have to see what guidance we get from the government regarding spectators and look at the situation around sports, both internationally and nationally."
Japan's defiant stance is in stark contrast to the views of former deputy chairman of the 2012 London Olympic organising committee, Keith Mills, who told the BBC he would be planning for a cancellation if in charge of the Tokyo Games.
"If I was sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, and thankfully I’m not, I would be making plans for a cancellation," he said.
With Yahoo Sport Australia/Andrew Reid
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