The Tokyo Games, originally set to start in July this year, have been rescheduled for 2021.
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has given the starkest warning yet that the rearranged Tokyo Olympics next year might have to be cancelled completely, saying it would be difficult to stage them if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
Speaking in the Japanese parliament, Abe stressed the importance of developing vaccines and drugs to combat Covid-19 before the Games begin on 23 July next year. “The Olympic Games must be held in a way that shows the world has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Abe’s comments came a day after the Tokyo 2020 president, Yoshiro Mori, was asked whether the Games could be delayed until 2022 if the pandemic remains a threat next year. “No,” he replied. “In that case, it’s cancelled.”
Health experts – including Dr Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force – have said that development of a vaccine for the disease is at least a year to 18 months away.
This week the Japan Medical Association also expressed doubt over whether the Games could go ahead without a vaccine. But a senior International Olympic Committee official said that was not necessarily the case. “A vaccine would be nice. But we will just continue to be guided, as we must be, by WHO and the Japanese health authorities because, in all of this, the health and wellbeing of the athletes and other participants in the Games is the number-one priority.”