By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – The rearranged Tokyo Games must be held “at any cost” in 2021, Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference, Hashimoto said the Games should be held for the benefit of the athletes, regardless of the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee took the unprecedented decision in March to postpone the Games, originally scheduled to begin in July, until 2021 because of the virus.
“Everyone involved with the Games is working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts towards next year,” Hashimoto said during a news conference.
“I think we have to hold the Games at any cost,” she added.
“I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus.”
Officials from the Japanese government, local Tokyo government and the Olympics organising committee met for the first time last week to develop steps to counter the coronavirus at the Games.
In an interview with Reuters in July, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said organisers were preparing to host the Games next year even if the global coronavirus pandemic hasn’t eased substantially.
Organisers are looking at over 200 proposals on how best to deal with the virus, including easing travel restrictions for foreign athletes, anti-virus measures at the Athletes’ Village and how to handle spectators.
During his regular press briefing on Tuesday, Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya was not as bullish as Hashimoto about next year’s Games but said things were moving in the right direction.
Organisers were encouraged that sports events were being held successfully around the world in recent months and that there was the possibility of more fans being allowed into stadiums for Japanese baseball and soccer games, he added.
“This has been a big, big encouragement for the staff members of Tokyo 2020,” said Takaya.
“We feel that is another step towards … where we can see sports in action in our society.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Richard Pullin/Peter Rutherford)