The president of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee has insisted that the Games will go ahead this summer regardless of the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent spike in infections in Japan has seen Tokyo and 10 other prefectures placed under a state of emergency, but Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said on Tuesday that the Olympics will take place from July 23-August 8.
“We will hold the Olympics, regardless of how the coronavirus [situation] looks,” Mori said, according to Reuters, though he acknowledged that the Games would be different due to the pandemic. “We must consider new ways of hosting the Olympics.”
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed by 12 months in April of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Times reported last month that the Japanese government had privately conceded that the Olympics and Paralympics would have to be cancelled. Both the IOC and the Japanese government have denied the report.
International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons suggested that the Games could be held behind closed doors. “We do understand that the Games will not be the same without spectators, but the impact of the Games is very strong outside the host city and the host nation,” Parsons told AFP.
The postponement of the Tokyo Games led to the change in dates for the 2021 Tour de France, which was brought forward by a week and will now begin on June 26 and finish on July 18, just six days before the elite men’s road race at the Olympics. It is still unclear whether Olympic athletes will be required to undergo a period of quarantine on arrival in Japan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced the postponement or cancellation of many early-season events, including the Tour Down Under, Vuelta a San Juan, Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Volta ao Algarve.
Speaking to DirectVelo at the weekend, UCI president David Lappartient conceded that the opening half of the 2021 calendar “looks to be complicated”, but expressed confidence that WorldTour races – starting with the UAE Tour – would go ahead as planned.
While the organisers of the Challenge Mallorca, Ruta del Sol and Volta ao Algarve have announced plans to reschedule their races in May, Lappartient said that the UCI would wait until March before allocating new slots on the calendar to events that have already been postponed in 2021.
“Everyone looks at the calendar as if they were alone and everyone makes almost the same choice. We would end up with weeks where there are five or six races,” said Lappartient. “We are waiting for the month of March to first see which events are actually cancelled and then decide on a reorganisation of the calendar.”