If no vaccine, then no Olympics
Published: 07:51 PM, 23 July 2020
File photo; collected
The development of a coronavirus vaccine or treatment will be key to allowing the postponed Tokyo 2020 games to open in a year’s time, Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Olympics organizing committee said Wednesday.
The organizing committee president said that the delayed Tokyo Olympics could not be held next year if conditions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continue as they are.
Asked whether Tokyo could hold the Games if the virus situation remained unchanged, Mori said: “If things continue as they are now, we couldn’t.”
“Specifically, the first point will be that a vaccine or drug has been developed,” he said.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23, 2021 – a year from Thursday. A small, 15-minute ceremony without fans is scheduled for Thursday at the new national stadium to mark the date.
The International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers have repeatedly expressed confidence the games will take place, though they have offered few details on how they can happen amid the pandemic.
The IOC and organizers have also said the Olympics will not be postponed again and would be canceled.
“It would be too much for us to answer each of these hypothetical questions,” Mori said. “I don’t think this situation will last for another year.”
Researchers have said a vaccine could be six-to-nine months away, which Mori said was the key. Some, however, question if young athletes should be a priority, and if all would agree to be vaccinated.
Organizers and the IOC say they want to simplify the games to help reduce the soaring costs. But officials cannot say now if fans will be permitted next year, or if athletes will face quarantines. They say few details will be available until the fall.
About the possibility of limited spectators, or holding the event behind closed doors, Mori said, “Reducing the number of spectators would be tough and holding the event without any fans is not an option for now.”
Just one in four people in Japan want to see the delayed Tokyo Games held next year, with most backing either further delay or a cancellation, according to a survey published by Kyodo News this week. Most of those backing a delay or cancellation said they simply didn’t believe the pandemic could be contained in time for the Games.
About 1,000 deaths in Japan have been attributed to the coronavirus. Tokyo has seen a rising number of daily cases in the last few weeks, which reached a high of almost 300 last week. But the numbers are relatively modest for a metropolitan area of 14 million.