Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe insisted Saturday that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead this summer as planned despite growing fears about the viability of staging the Games amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
With a string of global sporting events being halted in a response to the crisis, Abe has moved to dampen speculation that the Games, due to take place from July 24 to August 9, could be postponed, or even canceled.
“We will overcome the spread of the infection and host the Olympics without problem, as planned,” Abe told the news conference in Tokyo, but added the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would have the final decision whether Tokyo 2020 takes place.
His comments came after Tokyo 2020 organizers announced that the Greek leg of the Olympic torch relay had been canceled, but also insisted the Games would go ahead on schedule.
“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have reconfirmed today that both parties will continue to stay in close collaboration with all relevant organizations as we prepare to deliver a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games opening on 24 July 2020 as planned,” said a statement on the official Tokyo 2020 website.
The Japanese leg of the relay is due to begin in Fukushima on March 26 and Abe said he expected that to go ahead.
“The Olympic flame will arrive in Japan. I’d like to go to Fukushima to witness the start of the Olympic torch relay,” he said.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike added: “We’re taking thorough infection measures with regards to the torch relay domestically.”
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with global elite sports on hold until at least the end of March, has seen several Olympic qualification events postponed, including wrestling, rowing and diving. But boxing events in London have gone ahead as scheduled Saturday.
Japan has had more than 1,400 cases of coronavirus, with 28 reported deaths, but has avoided the spikes seen in other countries.