The Tokyo Olympics will go ahead even if the city is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19, a top Olympic official said on Friday, underscoring the challenges facing organisers of the pandemic-hit Games.
With just nine weeks until the Games get underway, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sought to calm fears in Japan that the event would present a burden to a medical system already under strain from the pandemic at the end of a three-day virtual meeting to discuss preparations.
In a boost for the Olympics, which was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced that French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will host the 2024 Games, plans to attend the opening ceremony in Tokyo.
The global sporting event faces mounting opposition from the public, and in a Reuters company survey released on Friday nearly 70% of respondents said they wanted a cancellation or further postponement.
When asked whether the Olympics would go ahead even if Tokyo is under a state of emergency, the IOC Vice President John Coates, who oversees the preparations, said: “Absolutely yes.”
He added that “all of the plans we have in place to protect the safety and security of the athletes and the people of Japan are based on the worst possible circumstances.”
Coates, who spoke at a news conference at the end of the meeting, said that more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village would be vaccinated ahead of July 23, when the Olympics start.
He added that additional medical personnel would be part of the foreign Olympic delegations to support the medical operations and the implementation of the COVID-19 countermeasures at the Games.
Japan has vaccinated just 4.1% of its population, according to Reuters’ global tracker, the lowest rate among the world’s wealthy countries and only about a half of its medical staff have completed their inoculations.