The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee tried on Tuesday to reassure the Japanese public that the postponed Games will open in just over six months.
Two polls in the last few days have shown just over 80 per cent of Japanese people surveyed think the Olympics should be cancelled or postponed, or believe they will not take place as COVID-19 cases surge in Japan.
In what was billed as a New Year’s address, Mori gave a little pep talk aimed at the July 23 opening of the Olympics.
“Spring will always come, morning will surely come even after long nights,” president Yoshiro Mori said. “Believing in that, to give joy and hope to many people, we will do our best until the end.”
He added it is “absolutely impossible” to put off the Games again because many officials who have played a key role in the preparations are loaned from other organizations.
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Mori said Japan would determine whether to admit overseas fans during the Olympics and Paralympics, given the COVID-19 situation in the coming months.
Organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeated for months that the delayed Olympics will be able to open during the pandemic. But they have given few specifics and have said detailed plans will be revealed in the spring.
It’s an enormous job. More than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from 200 nations and territories will have to enter Japan, along with tens of thousands of other officials, coaches, and judges. No decision has been made public about fans being able to attend venues. It’s also unclear if fans from abroad will be permitted.
Optimism from organizers has been put into question by a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding areas declared last week by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Japan has controlled the virus relatively well, but cases are rising with about 4,000 deaths in Japan attributed to COVID-19.
Japan has a population of 126 million.
“If I get caught up in my thoughts, or if I flinch, or get a little lost in my mind — it affects everything,” Mori said. “We have to proceed as planned. There is no other way to respond.”