The possibility of canceling or postponing this summer’s Olympics or Paralympics was not raised at a Tokyo 2020 board meeting Wednesday, despite a major Japanese newspaper calling for the Games to be scrapped.
There is widespread opposition to the Tokyo Games in Japan, which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. But the editorial in the Asahi Shimbun earlier Wednesday, which cited concerns the Olympics and Paralympics would lead to further outbreaks and overwhelm Japan’s health care system, was notable because the paper is a sponsor of the Olympics.
“Nobody has explicitly mentioned a view that we should postpone or cancel,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said at a news conference following the board meeting.
Muto downplayed the paper’s opposition, saying “different press organizations have different views, different perspectives on matters.”
“That’s very natural, given their role in society,” Muto said.
The New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday released a paper questioning the effectiveness of some of the COVID-19-prevention measures outlined in the playbooks the International Olympic Committee has developed for participants, staff and news media at the Olympics and Paralympics. Among the criticisms: having athletes share rooms; relying on tracing apps rather than wearable technology; and not addressing different risk levels for indoor and outdoor venues.
“We believe the IOC’s determination to proceed with the Olympic Games is not informed by the best scientific evidence,” the authors wrote.
Muto said he had not read the paper. But he said the IOC consults with a variety of health organizations and scientific experts, and pointed out that the playbooks are to be updated again next month.
Muto said he understands the public’s concern, and said Tokyo 2020 needs to do a better job communicating what organizers have already done and are planning to prevent the Olympics and Paralympics from causing COVID-19 outbreaks. The number of people coming to Japan for the Games, for example, has been more than halved, from the 180,000 originally planned to 78,000.
Organizers also believe that the mitigation efforts taken by the Japanese and local governments will bring down cases.
“National governments and local governments are ensuring that they have all the initiatives in place to contain the pandemic,” Muto said. “We believe these initiatives will bear fruit, will be effective so that the situation around infections will improve toward the Olympic, Paralympic Games. That’s our thought.”