Japan doubled down on its commitment to host the Tokyo Olympics this year and flatly denied reports on Friday of a cancellation, in a move that is unlikely to temper public fears of holding the event during a global pandemic.
Though much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Tokyo organisers have consistently vowed to press ahead with the Games scheduled to open on July 23 after having been postponed in March last year.
A government spokesman said there was “no truth” to a report in The Times that Japan was now focused on rescheduling the event to 2032.
“We will clearly deny the report,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai said in a press conference on Friday.
The Tokyo 2020 organising committee also denied the report, saying its partners including the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee were “fully focused” on hosting the games as scheduled.
In early international reactions, the Australian and U.S. Olympic Committees said they were preparing for the Games as planned.
“Unfortunately, I need to address unfounded rumours that the Tokyo Olympic Games will be cancelled, rumours that only create more anxiety for athletes,” Matt Carroll, the chief executive of the Australian committee, told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
The Tokyo Games are on. The flame will be lit on July 23, 2021.”
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is run by the IOC’s point man for the Tokyo Games John Coates.
Olympic committees from the U.S. and Canada wrote on Twitter they had not received any information suggesting the Games would not happen as planned.
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases has forced it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.