The various stakeholders in Japan of the Tokyo Olympics, postponed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reaffirmed on Friday their intention to hold them this summer, despite reports that the Japanese government had secretly given up.
"I am determined" to host a "safe" Olympic Games in Tokyo, as a sign of "humanity's victory over the novel coronavirus," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a parliamentary session.
The Tokyo-2020 organizing committee also recalled on Friday that it was "fully focused" on preparations to host the Olympics (July 23-August 8), in unison with the Japanese government and the city of Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
According to the British newspaper The Times, which quoted a source within the ruling coalition in Japan on Thursday, the government has already secretly declared the impossibility of organizing the Olympic Games this year, due to the global upsurge of the coronavirus, including in Japan.
To save face, the government would seek to ensure beforehand that Tokyo organizes the 2032 Olympics, the next available edition (after Paris-2024 and Los Angeles-2028), according to the Times.
- "No plan B" -
Other Japanese officials have denied outright.
Deputy Japanese government spokesperson Manabu Sakai said there was "nothing true" in the Times article and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she had "no idea" as to the origin of the information.
"We are coordinating closely with the government, the organizing committee and the IOC" and "the truth is that there has been no discussion about a cancellation or postponement" of the Games, Ms Koike told reporters.
The Olympic committees of the United States and Canada have repeated for their part that they are preparing to send athletes to Japan this summer.
The boss of the Australian Olympic Committee Matt Carroll, also qualifying as "unfounded rumor" the information of the Times, conceded for his part that it would be "very different Games, focused on the sportsmen and their competitions".
In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Tokyo-2020 director general Toshiro Muto said that holding the Games this summer was the organizers' "inflexible course".
Faced with growing doubts, IOC President Thomas Bach himself stepped up to the plate on Thursday.
"We have no reason to believe at this moment that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on July 23," he told Japanese news agency Kyodo.
"There is no plan B" and "we are totally committed to making these Games (Games) safe and successful", he insisted.
Last week, a key minister in the Japanese government, Taro Kono, however expressed a dissenting voice, believing that nothing should be excluded for the Tokyo Olympics.
- Games without an audience?
Last March, as the first wave of the coronavirus spread across the world, the IOC took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games just after Australia and Canada announced their intention not to not send their athletes to the Tokyo Games which were to open in July 2020.
The current upsurge in the pandemic is also affecting Japan, where public opinion is now overwhelmingly opposed to the organization of the Games, preferring a further postponement or outright cancellation, according to recent polls.
While legislative elections are due in Japan this fall at the latest, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) "could take a huge risk by hosting these extremely unpopular Games," said Amir Anvarzadeh, strategist at Asymmetric Advisors.
"It is almost certain", given the number of people involved and the new variants of Covid-19 in circulation, that the Olympic Games would cause an outbreak of infections if they took place, said this analyst.
Elected representatives of the opposition in Japan also asked Thursday for the postponement or cancellation of the Olympics.
The Tokyo Medical Association suggested on Friday that the event take place without an audience.
The organizers, favorable to a presence of the public, even limited, intend to decide in the coming months on the question.
"They (the organizers, Editor's note) must abandon the idea of celebrating the century by inviting people from different countries", declared its president Haruo Ozaki to the Asahi newspaper, advocating the Games "without spectators".
© 2021 AFP