12 March 2020
Tokyo: Japan's top government spokesperson said on Thursday that 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.
"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, according to Xinhua news.
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 the Games, due to start on July 24, has not been discussed and the schedule will be followed as planned.
"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 Governor Yuriko Koike, meanwhile, voiced her concern 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.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that "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.