The Olympic will-it-won’t-it saga rolls on, but opinion in Japan is clear: The majority don’t want to see the games happen in Tokyo this year. And the International Olympic Committee’s Dick Pound is perplexed. He wants a probe into just why the Japanese feel this way about holding the games in the middle of a pandemic.
Sports bodies are wrestling with the issue of whether athletes should be vaccinated for COVID-19 ahead of major events like the Olympics. While the IOC is urging athletes to get their shots before Tokyo 2020, it cannot impose vaccinations, although Australia and other nations already have plans to inoculate their teams.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates reckons that how the rollout of vaccinations pans out will determine the fate of the Tokyo Games, which are “still possible” this year. The head of New Zealand’s Olympic committee, however, has warned that some Kiwi athletes may choose to skip the games due to COVID-19 concerns.
Does everything hang on the U.S.? That was the suggestion of Tokyo Organizing Committee member Haruyuki Takahashi in an interview this week. “It’s up to the U.S. I hate to say it, but (IOC President) Thomas Bach and the IOC are not the ones who are able to make the decision about the games,” he said, expressing the hope that Biden will speak up.
That hasn’t happened yet, although failed U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Mitt Romney chimed in with his support, for what it’s worth. Rio 2016 women’s pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece also said she now wants Tokyo 2020 to go ahead in 2021 — even without fans — a year after she was a key voice calling for the delay from summer 2020.
And if Tokyo is not up to the task and its residents don’t want the games anyway, Florida — with double the daily COVID-19 caseload of Japan — has offered to take over. “Whatever precautions are required, let’s figure it out and get it done,” Florida’s financial officer wrote to Bach. That’s the spirit.