IOC shuts down media reports of Tokyo Olympic Games cancellation

2020 Olympic Games rings
2020 Olympic Games rings (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the local organisers have refuted media reports that the Tokyo Olympic Games have been cancelled. According to a statement issued by the IOC on Friday, reports of an outright cancellation are "categorically untrue."

The Times of London reported (opens in new tab) on Thursday that the Japanese government had privately concluded that the event would have to be cancelled due to the surge of new cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The report quoted an unidentified senior member of the ruling coalition.

"No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it's too difficult," the anonymous source told The Times. "Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."

The report also stated that the focus would turn to securing the Olympic Games again for Tokyo in 2032. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they were scheduled from July 23 to August 8 this year.

The IOC pointed out that the Japanese Government said that such reports were "categorically untrue", while providing a full statement sent out across social media channels.

"Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. This is categorically untrue," read the statement from Japan.

"At an IOC Executive Board meeting in July last year, it was agreed that the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be held on July 23 this year, and the programme and venues for the Games were rescheduled accordingly. All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer.

"We will be implementing all possible countermeasures against COVID-19 and will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer."

The IOC went on to reiterate that, alongside Japanese partners, it is "fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year."

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for Tokyo on January 7 due to the record number of new COVID-19 cases. The emergency order will remain in effect until at least the first week of February.

In the wake of the state of emergency declaration, Canadian IOC member Dick Pound has also stated that he is uncertain that the event will go ahead. However, the IOC is reportedly looking to ensure athletes will be vaccinated against COVID-19 before travelling to Tokyo. Although the organisation earlier stated that athletes would not be obligated to take a vaccine, BBC Sport reported that Pound suggested organisers could make it a condition before entering Japan.

In addition, Keith Mills, the deputy chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games, believes that it is unlikely the event will go ahead. 

“Looking at the pandemic around the world, in South America, in North America, in Africa and across Europe, it looks unlikely," Mills told BBC Radio 5 live.

“If I was sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I’m sure they have plans for a cancellation. I think they will leave it until absolutely the last minute in case the situation improves dramatically, in case the vaccinations roll out faster than we all hope.”

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.