It’s an almighty elephant in the room for elite-level athletes: will the rescheduled Olympic Games set for July and August 2021 in Tokyo go ahead?
According to the supremely-named Dick Pound, it’s looking increasingly unlikely. He is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and claimed he ‘couldn’t be certain’ that the Games would go ahead as the coronavirus continues to strike around the globe.
Organisers in Tokyo have claimed that they will be ready to welcome athletes from across the world on the planned dates this summer, however with a ‘state of emergency’ declared in the city – and three others in Japan – the picture is looking increasingly perilous.
Pound has offered up his own solution, claiming that stars competing in the Olympics should be high up on the vaccine priority list, and that it could be a pre-requisite for an athlete to be vaccinated before they are allowed into Tokyo.
“In Canada, where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes….to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level, I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that,” he said.
Meanwhile, a statement from the IOC read:
“The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee are fully aligned in their commitment to have as many foreign participants as possible vaccinated before the Games.
“Athletes are important role models, and by taking the vaccine they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration for the wellbeing of others in their communities.”
Tokyo recorded more than 2,000 cases of coronavirus yesterday, and a raft of new emergency measures – including night time curfews – have been introduced.
Less than 200 days until the official Olympic opening ceremony on July 22, the Japanese prime minister – Yoshihide Suga – is ready to throw the kitchen sink at getting the Games on.
And he’s going to have to. The cost of increasing safety measures around the various stadiums and venues that will be hosting the event – as well as the Olympic village for participants – is thought to exceed £2 billion, and that’s a price that will continue to rise.
Suga directly referenced the showpiece event when announcing his state of emergency, claiming ‘….this declaration offers an opportunity for Tokyo 2020 to plan for a safe and secure Games this summer.’
Perhaps the PM hasn’t read the room though, as it’s been revealed by the Japan Times that 63% of Tokyo natives believe that the Olympics should either be delayed or cancelled completely in the wake of obvious safety concerns.
Another issue is that the Japanese government does not want to unleash a full vaccination programme until May, which would be when clinical trials for a number of local and international vaccines would be completed – a situation that Masayuki Imagawa, head of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, has called a ‘best case scenario’. That would surely be too quick a timeframe in which to vaccinate those who live in the city.