Barely 72 hours shy of the scheduled opening ceremony, it has been revealed that the Olympic Games could still be cancelled if case numbers continue to rise.
Toshiro Muto, the head of the organising committee in Tokyo, has reiterated that he would ‘continue discussions’ with his fellow senior officials if there is a significant spike in case numbers in the next couple of days.
At least 71 athletes, coaches or support staff have tested positive for coronavirus since travelling to Tokyo, while cases in the city have risen by an average of around 1,000 every day for the past week.
“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” Muto said when quizzed by reporters today.
“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
There has been intense pressure to ensure the Games, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic, go ahead as scheduled, despite the rising caseload and the protestations of many Japanese people angered that their government is willing to risk further loss of life.
Spectators have been banned from all events at the Games in Tokyo and the supporting cities, while the cast of dignitaries at the opening ceremony has been slimmed down to the extent that commercial partners and sponsors will no longer be welcome.
The ruling government has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo, which is designed to keep locals inside in an attempt to minimise the spread ahead of the Games getting underway on Saturday.
That includes curbs on alcohol sales and curfews for restaurants and bars, while Olympic officials have warned athletes to stay away from venues that open after 8pm and/or serve alcohol, to lessen the spread in the ‘villages’ that the competitors are temporarily living in.
Team GB On the Edge
With their own 12-storey tower block in the Harumi district, Team GB should be able to keep their athletes safe within the bubble.
However, that has not stopped eight members of Team GB – six unnamed athletes and two members of staff – being forced into self-isolation.
They were on a flight to Tokyo that contained an individual that has since tested positive for Covid – it is not thought that the person is a member of the British set-up.
Nevertheless, the rules dictate that the eight GB team members will now be forced to stay in their rooms, which will surely have implications for the preparations for the Games.
The squad has already been hit by a number of high-profile withdrawals. Dan Evans and Johanna Konta, the top-ranked British tennis players, have been forced to pull out after contracting the virus, while in golf the likes of Lee Westwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick have withdrawn for personal reasons.