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No Change To Japan’s Olympics Plans Despite WHO Pandemic Declaration: Top Gov’t Spokesperson

Japanese government promised to continue preparations for Tokyo 2020.
14 Mar 2020 08:50
No Change To Japan’s Olympics Plans Despite WHO Pandemic Declaration: Top Gov’t Spokesperson
A pedestrian wearing a face mask passes by an electronic countdown timer for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 25, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

Japan’s top government spokesperson said Thursday Japan will continue as scheduled to make preparations for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The remarks made at a press briefing by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, came as the World Health Organization (WHO) a day earlier declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gives a speech during the "One Year to Go" ceremony held to celebrate the one year countdown to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 25, 2019. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gives a speech during the “One Year to Go” ceremony held to celebrate the one year countdown to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 25, 2019. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

“There is no change to the government stance that we will make preparations for the Tokyo Games as planned by keeping close contact with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), organizers, and the Tokyo metropolitan government,” Suga said.

Executives with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee also said the Games will be held this summer as planned.

“Nothing has changed significantly. We are working with the organizations involved to prepare for the games,” a senior official was quoted as saying on the matter.

On Wednesday, however, Haruyuki Takahashi, a member of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee’s executive board, expressed his intention to suggest at a board meeting later this month that the quadrennial Games, one of the largest and most popular sporting events in the world, be delayed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to deal accordingly with the crisis based on reality. Time is running out,” Takahashi, a former senior managing director at Japan’s leading advertising agency, Dentsu Inc., was quoted as telling Kyodo News.

The organizing committee rebuked Takahashi’s remarks saying they only represented his personal opinion.

The organizing committee said that postponing Games, due to start on July 24, has not been discussed and the schedule will be followed as planned.

Mori Yoshiro, president of Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), reacts in a media huddle after participating in the IOC Executive Board Meeting via visio in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

Mori Yoshiro, president of Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), reacts in a media huddle after participating in the IOC Executive Board Meeting via visio in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

“Our basic stance is to host a secure and safe Olympics. At the moment, we are not at all considering making changes in the direction or the schedule of the games,” Yoshiro Mori, president of the committee, told a press briefing on the matter in Tokyo.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, meanwhile, voiced her concerns that the WHO upgrading the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak to being a global pandemic could impact ongoing discussions on hosting the Games here this summer.

She maintained however that, “There is no way that the games will be cancelled.”

“There are people who say various things. But if you think about the preparations made so far and the feeling of the Japanese people, a delay is unthinkable,” Koike said.

She added that it would be for the IOC to make the final decision.

The second torchbearer Mizuki Noguchi, gold medalist in the women's marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, holds the torch after the flame lighting ceremony for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, March 12, 2020. (Xinhua/Antonis Nikolopoulos)

The second torchbearer Mizuki Noguchi, gold medalist in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, holds the torch after the flame lighting ceremony for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece, March 12, 2020. (Xinhua/Antonis Nikolopoulos)

JonDay

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying Wednesday that there are “deep concerns by the alarming levels of spread and severity and the alarming levels of inaction,” has led some to voice concerns about the summer Games going ahead.

An aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also reportedly expressed his reservations, saying the WHO statement could create a sense that the world is in no position to hold the Olympics.

COVID-19 infections have now been confirmed in more than 110 countries and regions around the world.

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