Tokyo will scrap events marking a year to go until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, organisers said Friday, citing the “current economic situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But given the global crisis, organisers ruled out a similar celebration and said that the Tokyo 2020 countdown was cancelled.
The Games have been pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the disease outbreak, though it remains unclear whether even that delay will be sufficient.
Last year, the city and organisers held a series of events to mark the one-year countdown, including unveiling the newly designed medals.
Coronavirus plays spoil-sport as Tokyo 2020 countdown cancelled
“In view of the current economic situation, Tokyo 2020 will not be holding any events to mark the new one year to go milestone for the Games,” the organisers said.
“But we will consider what we can do to show our solidarity with the people.”
The confirmation came after reports in the Japanese media that organisers would scrap the event, fearing it was inappropriate given the global pandemic and the ongoing risk of infection inside Japan.
Kyodo News agency reported that posters and messages of encouragement to athletes might be put up and displayed online instead, adding that the organising committee felt a more “moderate tone” was appropriate.
A nationwide state of emergency over the virus has been lifted in Japan, but a recent rise in cases in Tokyo has led to fears of a second wave.
Coronavirus: will 2020 Games be scaled back?
The latest reports come after Tokyo’s governor confirmed the city and organisers are looking at ways to scale back next year’s Games.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike speaks to @cnn. Will the Olympics happen in 2021? Did Japan downplay the pandemic in the early weeks to keep Tokyo 2020 on schedule? What is the reason for Japan’s incredibly low coronavirus death toll? Watch for the interview this weekend on CNN! pic.twitter.com/r5lnNT0k4H
— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) June 5, 2020
Japanese media said streamlining plans could involve cutting the number of spectators and reducing participation in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source as saying that everyone including athletes, officials and spectators would be required to take a test for the virus.
Read more: Coronavirus: Is Olympics being canceled?
Tokyo 2020 declined to comment on those reports, saying discussions about coronavirus countermeasures would be held “from this autumn onwards”.
Organisers and Tokyo officials face the twin headaches of ensuring the postponed Games can be held safely, given the pandemic, and keeping additional costs to a minimum.
But with the pandemic continuing to rage in much of the world, it remains unclear whether the Games can be held next year.
On Friday, a member of the organising committee’s executive board said a decision on whether the Games could be held or not would need to be taken in spring.
“I think we need to decide around March next year,” Toshiaki Endo, a former Olympic minister told reporters, denying speculation that the IOC intends to make a decision in October.
2020 Olympics Tokyo: on the brink
IOC chief Thomas Bach said last month that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.
Bach said that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has “made it clear to him that there is no plan B” if the games are further delayed.
Tokyo 2020 organisers exploring ‘simplified’ Olympics https://t.co/Dk4bAi1ZkV
— The Independent (@Independent) June 4, 2020
He declined to say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them behind closed doors.
According to the new schedule, the Olympics will begin on July 23, 2021 and run through Aug. 8.
The Tokyo Olympics will be followed by China hosting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Asked if the tournament could be held behind closed doors, the IOC president said: “This is not what we want.”
“Because the Olympic spirit is also about uniting the fans, and this is what makes the games so unique… but when it would come to the decision, I would ask them to give me some more time for consultation with the athletes, with the World Health Organization, with the Japanese partners.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it would be “difficult” to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
And Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said the Olympics would have to be cancelled if the disease isn’t under control by next year. Thus, the fact that Tokyo 2020 countdown is cancelled may herald further bad news for the hotly contested and popular Olympic games.
Olympics 2020: Timeline of uncertainty
The Olympics in Tokyo have faced a huge amount of uncertainty ever since the emergence of the first coronavirus case in Japan in January 2020. In early March, Tomas Bach said on March 12th that he would follow the advice of the WHO on postponement/cancellation of the games. However, the Japanese PM told the media that preparations for the game were going ahead as planned on March 14th.
On 24th March, it was agreed that the Games would be held in 2021 at a meeting between IOC chief Thomas Bach and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. Abe said they had established that cancelling the Games was out of the question, and that Bach had agreed “100%” that a postponement was the most appropriate response to the global disruption.
They said that the Games will continue to be called the “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020” even when they are held next year, and the Olympic flame will stay in Japan “as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times”.
On 21st May, Bach revealed to journalists that there may be no Games if they are not held after 2021, throwing a massive shadow on the Games for fans, followers and media alike.
The Olympics were last canceled in 1944 due to World War II but the games had never been delayed in their 124-year modern history.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk