A top Japanese official says this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo could be canceled because of a recent resurgence of COVID-19 in countries across the world that plan to participate, according to a new report.
Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, told a Japanese broadcaster that if the games seem “impossible to do … then we have to stop, decisively,” Reuters reported.
He said cancellation is “of course” an option, adding: “If the Olympics were to spread infection, then what are the Olympics for?”
But Reuters said the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee released a statement saying those preparing for the Games remain fully committed to hosting them beginning on July 23.
Olympic officials have hoped that infection rates would drop as vaccines spread across the world, but some nations are seeing new spikes. India, for example, on Thursday announced 200,000 new cases. Even Tokyo has recorded a jump in new COVID-19 cases, presenting more concerns.
The Tokyo Olympics have already been delayed a year and the estimated cost tops $15 billion.
Even if the Games go off, it will be a TV-only event. “Fans from abroad are banned, tourism is out, and there’ll be no room for neighborhood partying. Athletes are being told to arrive late, leave early and maneuver around a moving maze of rules,” The Associated Press reported.
Dr. Norio Sugaya, an infectious diseases expert at Keiyu Hospital in Yokohama, told the AP that the Games should not proceed. “It is best to not hold the Olympics given the considerable risks,” he said.
Back at the beginning of the year, a top Florida official informed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the state is ready to host the Games if Japan drops out.
State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach “to encourage you to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida.”
“With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State,” Patronis wrote in the letter. “I would welcome the opportunity to pitch Florida and help you make the right contacts to get this done.”
Patronis touted Florida’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When most of the major states were shutting down their economies, we were fortunate enough to have a Governor that recognized the important balance of fighting the virus with keeping the economy open,” he wrote. “Moreover, Governor [Ron] DeSantis has partnered with the private sector to rapidly distribute vaccines to our most vulnerable populations. Unlike other states, when the COVID-19 vaccine comes to Florida it doesn’t just sit on the shelf wrapped in government red tape; it moves fast to protect our communities.”
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