Japan dismissed a report claiming officials see cancelling the Tokyo Olympics as inevitable on Friday, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was “determined” to hold the Games.
Deputy government spokesman Manabu Sakai there was “no truth” to the report in The Times, which quoted an unnamed ruling coalition source as saying “the consensus is that it’s too difficult” to hold the Games.
It is the latest article to cast doubt on the Games, which were postponed over the coronavirus last year but have been hit by a surge in cases and plunging public support.
“I am determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” Suga insisted on Friday.
Games organisers also said they were “fully focused on hosting the Games this summer”.
But Sakai said a decision on hosting the Games was looming for Japan, a statement that appeared to deviate from the government’s stated position.
“At some point in time, we will naturally make a decision as to whether to actually hold it,” he said.
“Until then the Japanese government will do what it needs to do and make progress and prepare for it.”
Concerns have risen as Japan battles a third wave of virus infections, with polls showing around 80 percent of Japanese oppose hosting the event this year.
But International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said there was “no reason whatsoever” for them not to go ahead on July 23 as scheduled.
“This is why there is no plan B,” he told Japan’s Kyodo news agency.
‘The Tokyo Games are on’
The IOC took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games last March after Australia and Canada said they would not be sending teams to Tokyo as the pandemic worsened.
On Friday, Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll ruled out another withdrawal, calling reports of the Games’ cancellation “unfounded rumour”.
“The Tokyo Games are on,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“The flame will be lit on the 23rd of July 2021. This has just been reconfirmed again by the Japanese prime minister this afternoon in parliament in Tokyo.
“It will be a very different Games, simpler, with a focus on the athletes and their competitions.”
Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told AFP this week that the organising committee is “unwavering” on holding the event this year, but couldn’t rule out staging it without spectators.
But domestically there is rising doubt, with opposition lawmakers in parliament on Thursday calling for the Games to be postponed or cancelled.
And on Friday, the Tokyo Medical Association called for the event to be held behind closed doors.
“They must give up the idea of having the festivity of the century by inviting people from various countries,” its chairman Haruo Ozaki told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
“The feasibility of holding it with no spectators should be considered.