Japan is “determined” to host the postponed 2021 Olympic Games, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s newly elected prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
“In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic,” said Suga in his first international speech since taking office last week. “I will go to great lengths to welcome the Games, which will be safe and reliable,” added the Prime Minister in a video message.
The evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic in the world forced in March the historic decision to postpone the Games. But the ongoing outbreaks of infection around the world raise questions about whether it will be possible to host the event in 2021, starting on July 23. Olympic organizers and officials insist that the Games continue. On Friday, Vice President of the International Olympic Committee, John Coates, said the Games “must happen”, citing the strong impact that a cancellation would have on athletes. However, medical experts have warned that this major international event can be difficult to celebrate if the pandemic is not under control until next summer.
In Japan, enthusiasm for the Games appears to have waned, with surveys in recent months showing that only one in four Japanese people want the event to be played, while most support a new postponement or definitive cancellation. Olympic organizers and officials are looking at a long and complex list of possible preventive measures to tackle the coronavirus, with which they hope to organize the Games even if there is no vaccine available until then.
These measures are expected to include regular and rigorous testing of athletes and the obligation to be vaccinated if an effective vaccine already exists. The postponement also created a series of logistical problems and additional costs. Organizers are studying hundreds of cost-saving proposals, including cutting budgets for opening and closing ceremonies.