The CEO of Tokyo's Olympic Games said on Friday that he can't guarantee that even the postponed Olympics will happen next year, even after the delay.
"I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not," said Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said via an interpreter at a remotely conducted news conference, adding "We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer."
The games were postponed until July 23, 2021, with the Paralympics on August 24, according to AP.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come under fire for being slow to act on coronavirus, with opposition leaders suggesting that he has downplayed its severity in order to prolong any decision on when the Olympics would be held. This week, however, he issued an emergency declaration to combat the virus - committing 20% of the country's GDP towards an economic stimulus program and vowing to take "all steps" necessary to battle the economic fallout from the virus.
"We have made the decision to postpone the games by one year," Muto added on Friday. "So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis."
When asked if there were alternative plans to 2021, he said "Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort," adding "Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can development treatments, medicines and vaccines."
Japan has reported about 5,000 cases and 100 deaths. The country has the world’s oldest population, and COVID-19 can be especially serious for the elderly.
Muto was asked several times about the added costs of postponing, which has been estimated by Japanese media at between $2 billion-$6 billion. He said it was too soon to know the price tag and who would pay.
He also acknowledged that Tokyo Olympic organizers had taken out insurance.
“Tokyo 2020 has taken out several insurance policies,” he said. “But whether the postponement of the games qualifies as an event that is covered is not clear yet.”
He was also asked about the Olympic flame, which was taken off public display this week in Fukushima prefecture. Muto had an away-from-the-microphone talk with Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya before talking about the flame. -AP
"After the Olympic torch relay was canceled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020," said Muto. "Obviously in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I’m not going to make any further comment on the issue."
Some within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have suggested turning the Olympic flame into an international symbol of hope in the battle against the virus, though this would be impossible with current travel restrictions in place.