Tokyo Olympics 2020: Games will go ahead 'with or without COVID-19', says IOC vice-president John Coates
The Olympics have never been cancelled outside of the World Wars. IOC vice-president Coates is adamant that the Tokyo Games will start on their revised date of 23 July, 2021.
Sydney: Tokyo's postponed Olympics will go ahead next year regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, IOC vice-president John Coates told AFP Monday, vowing they will be the "Games that conquered Covid".
The Olympics have never been cancelled outside of the World Wars, and Coates was adamant that the Tokyo Games will start on their revised date.
"It will take place with or without Covid. The Games will start on 23 July next year," said Coates, who heads the International Olympic Committee's Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games.
"The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami," he said, referring to a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011.
"Now very much these will be the Games that conquered Covid, the light at the end of the tunnel."
In a landmark decision, the 2020 Olympics were postponed because of the global march of the pandemic and they are now set to open on 23 July, 2021.
But Japan's borders are still largely closed to foreign visitors and a vaccine is months or even years away, feeding speculation about whether the Games are feasible at all.
Japanese officials have made clear they would not delay them a second time beyond 2021.
There are signs that public enthusiasm in Japan is waning after a recent poll found just one in four Japanese want them to go ahead next year, with most backing either another postponement or a cancellation.
Coates said the Japanese government "haven't dropped the baton at all" following the postponement, despite the "monumental task" of putting the event back a year.
"Before Covid, (IOC president) Thomas Bach said this is the best prepared Games we've ever seen, the venues were almost all finished, they are now finished, the village is amazing, all the transport arrangements, everything is fine," he said.
"Now it's been postponed by one year, that's presented a monumental task in terms of re-securing all the venues... something like 43 hotels we had to get out of those contracts and re-negotiate for a year later.
"Sponsorships had to be extended a year, broadcast rights."
With much of that work underway, or accomplished, a task force has been set up to look at the different scenarios in 2021 - from how border controls will affect the movement of athletes, to whether fans can pack venues and how to keep stadiums safe.
The group, comprising Japanese and IOC officials, met for the first time last week.
"Their job now is to look at all the different counter-measures that will be required for the Games to take place," said Coates, the long-time president of the Australian Olympic Committee.
"Some countries will have it (Covid) under control, some won't. We'll have athletes therefore coming from places where it's under control and some where it is not.
"There's 206 teams... so there's a massive task being undertaken on the Japanese side."
Tokyo 2020 chief Toshiro Muto on Friday repeated that organisers hoped to avoid a Games without spectators - an option that has been mooted given Japan is still limiting audiences at sports events.
While the country is cautiously reopening its economy, with professional baseball, football, and sumo resuming in front of limited numbers of fans, the nation continues to see a steady stream of new coronavirus cases.
Japan has already ploughed billions of dollars into the Olympics, with the delay only adding to the cost.
Coates said the IOC was doing its part, putting in "something like an extra $800 million to support the international federations, whose income isn't happening this year, and national Olympic Committees".
Mary Kom (51kg) will join another Olympic-bound boxer Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), who is already at the facility. Simranjit Kaur (60kg), also bound for Tokyo, will train there too but after completing the COVID-19 post-recovery isolation.
The Playbook for athletes is to be updated on Wednesday, with Playbooks for media and others unveiled on Friday. A final edition of all Playbooks will be published in June.
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