TOKYO – The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee had a simple message Tuesday for fellow members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The games will happen.
“No matter what situation would be with the coronavirus, we will hold the games,” Yoshiro Mori, who is also a former Japanese prime minister, told lawmakers. “We should pass on the discussion of whether we will hold the games or not, but instead discuss how we should hold it.”
Mori has been the main cheerleader for several weeks in Japan, backed in Switzerland by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach as reports have swirled that the Olympics might be canceled.
The IOC has aggressively pushed back and says the Olympics will open on July 23 with 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of judges, officials, media, broadcasters, sponsors and VIPs. The Paralympics follow on Aug. 24 with 4,400 athletes.
A decision about fans at venues is to be made in the spring, but it seems likely that fans from abroad will be excluded.
Recent polls show about 80% of the Japanese public believe the games should be — or will be — canceled or postponed again. Organizers must convince them that the Olympics will happen and will be safe in a country that has controlled COVID-19 better than most.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday extended for another month a state of emergency order for Tokyo and nine prefectures. The original order went into force on Jan. 7 during a strong surge in new cases. Cases have been declining, but the coming Olympics leave no margin for error.