London – The former deputy chairman of the 2012 London Games organizing committee said on Tuesday he would be planning for a cancellation if in charge of the Tokyo Olympics.
Keith Mills told BBC radio that the delayed Summer Games scheduled for July and August appeared unlikely to happen, in his opinion, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I was sitting in the shoes of the organizing committee in Tokyo, and thankfully I’m not, I would be making plans for a cancellation,” he said.
“I’m sure they have plans for a cancellation but I think they will leave it to absolutely the last minute in case the situation improves dramatically and in case the vaccines roll out faster.
“It’s a tough call and I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes.”
Mills indicated that regardless of whether officials in Japan can reduce the number of local infections, the global state of the pandemic was of serious concern for an event featuring athletes from over 200 countries.
“It’s not just the infections in Tokyo, it’s the infections in all the competing nations. The challenge is whether enough competitors and enough countries can visit Japan and make it a really viable games,” Mills said.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed on Monday to forge ahead with preparations for the games in the face of growing public opposition as Japan battles a surge in coronavirus infections.
Recent media polls in Japan showed close to 80% believe the Olympics, already postponed by a year because of the pandemic, should be delayed again or canceled entirely.
Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya played down the polls and said the games would go ahead, with as many spectators as possible and even without vaccinations.
“Our position remains — we will deliver the games,” he told BBC Scotland.
“Our countermeasures on COVID-19 are working under the assumption that we will not have a vaccine, so even if we do not, our plan is that we will be able to deliver the games.”
World Athletics head Sebastian Coe, who was the chairman of the 2012 organizing committee, told Sky News he did not think the Games would be canceled but that they would be a challenge and a very different experience.
“Of all the countries on the planet that really (have) the fortitude, and resilience and the street-smarts to see this through, it is actually Japan,” he said.
“I wake up as a federation president really grateful that it is Japan that’s dealing with this and not some other places that I can think of. So I’m sure we will be there.
“I think there will be big issues around crowds and distancing the athletes. Just think about the village, you’ve got 10,500 athletes and probably another 7,000 support staff in there and they’re all probably wanting to eat at roughly the same time,” he added.
“I think the games will take place but they will look different.”
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