Tokyo, Sep 9 (IANS) Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games should be held “at any cost”, trying to clear all doubts amid the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic and worries of policy changes by a new government.
“All the people involved with the Games are working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts toward next year under the circumstances they’ve been handed,” Hashimoto said during a press conference, Xinhua news agency reported.
“I think we have to hold the Games at any cost. I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus,” the five-time Olympian said.
Hashimoto, who was appointed as the Olympic minister last year by outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made the remarks when responding to IOC vice-president John Coates’ claim on Monday that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead next year regardless of the coronavirus situation.
Coates said the Games will start as planned on July 23 “with or without Covid-19”, stressing that the Olympics has never been cancelled outside of world wars.
Tokyo 2020 organising committee spokesman Masa Takaya said that Coates’ comments have shown that the IOC is “fully committed” to delivering the Games. He said that Tokyo 2020 will “carefully monitor the situation” and take countermeasures to ensure a safe and secure Games.
But he played down Hashimoto’s determination when asked if the pandemic could not be fully contained next year.
“We do not want to speculate on any situation. Considering the possibility of (further) postponement or cancellation, in case of any discussion, the IOC, Tokyo 2020 and key partners will have to sit together for any possible options at that time,” he said.
Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said that the delayed Tokyo Olympics could not be held next year if the Covid-19 pandemic continues as it is. He also said that the Games will have to be canceled if it could not be held next year.
A total of 331 new cases were confirmed in Japan on Tuesday, including 170 from Tokyo, the epicentre of Japan’s outbreak. The Tokyo metropolitan government has maintained its highest alert level on its four-tier scale, meaning “infections are spreading” in the capital.
Abe, who played an important role in helping Tokyo win the bid to host the Olympic Games seven years ago, will be replaced by one of the three candidates vying for the top post of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) next week.