TOKYO – Japan’s prime minister expressed willingness on Monday to discuss the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in line with the announcement made in the last few hours by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), while Canada has pulled out of the event.
“If it is difficult to hold [the Games] in a complete way a decision of postponement would be unavoidable as we think the athletes’ safety is paramount,’’ Shinzo Abe said at a parliamentary session.
On Sunday evening, the IOC announced that it would make a decision on when to hold the Olympic Games within the next four weeks amid the worsening health situation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the first time Abe has openly acknowledged the possibility of a change in dates for the Games that are scheduled to be held in the Japanese capital between July 24 and Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sep. 6.
He said the IOC’s decision was in line with his idea that the Games be held in a “complete” way but insisted that “cancellation is not an option,” as declared by IOC president Thomas Bach a few hours earlier.
“Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody. Therefore it is not on our agenda,” Bach wrote in an open letter to athletes.
Organizing committee president, Yoshiro Mori, said the cancellation of the Games was never considered neither by the organizers nor the International Olympic Committee.
He refused to speculate on any specific dates when asked by reporters at a press conference on Monday which would be preferred in case of an eventual postponement of the event.
Mori and Organizing Committee CEO Toshiro Muto said a change in the dates was only a possibility that was being considered and that a decision on the matter was yet to be finalized.
Mori said postponing the Games was not a possibility that the organizers had contemplated at the outset, but it was now an option on their agenda after the meeting of the IOC Executive Board.
The organizing committee president said all possible scenarios would be studied over the next four weeks and a decision be made.
At least two countries, Australia and Canada, announced that they won’t be sending any athletes to the Olympic Games in Tokyo if they were held this year.
The Australian Olympic Committee in a statement on Monday said that it needed to prioritize the health of athletes and of those around them.
“An Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad,” it added.
On Sunday, Canada said it would not send teams to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and called for their postponement by a year.
The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee “urgently” urged the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organization to postpone the event by a year.
The president of the Ecuadorian National Olympic Committee also said Sunday that it would be difficult for the country to take part in the Olympic Games if they are held as scheduled.
“It is not in the interests of Ecuador that the Olympic Games be held on the official date. It would be in its interests that they are postponed by between two to three months,” Augusto Moran told EFE.
Until now, the IOC had been adamant about going ahead with the Games as planned.
Abe said that the event should be safe for the welfare of the athletes and spectators while being proof that the human race has overcome the coronavirus.
The Japanese leader added that he would discuss the way forward with the IOC and the leaders of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) but admitted that the final decision on the matter would be taken by the IOC.
The Japanese authorities said the Olympic torch relay will begin Thursday as planned from Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, through the entire country before lighting the cauldron at the start of the Olympics.