As several massive corporate sponsors are slated to skip the opening ceremonies and an increasing number of athletes enter the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Tokyo Olympics organizing committee chief Toshiro Mutoue acknowledged that the Summer Games may not happen.
In a Tuesday press conference, Mutoue commented on the increasingly alarming situation as Tokyo prepares to host the Summer Olympics, per Reuters‘ Ju-min Park and Sakura Murakami:
We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases. We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.
According to the Reuters report, since the start of this month, 67 COVID infections have sprung up “among those accredited for the Games.” Tokyo also had 1,387 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday alone.
Spectators have already been ruled out for the Tokyo Olympics amid COVID concerns, and several athletes have already been ruled out of Olympic competition.
“I really want to [apologize] from my heart for the accumulation of frustrations and concerns that the public has been feeling towards the Olympics,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said on Tuesday, per Reuters.
The Team USA Basketball men have already been hit hard even before making the trip to Japan.
Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal is ruled out for the Summer Games, and entered the health and safety protocols with Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant. On Monday, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine couldn’t make the trip to Tokyo due to his entering the COVID protocols.
It’d be quite late in the game to completely call off the Tokyo Olympics, yet if the current COVID surge continues, organizers may not have a choice.
Japan began rolling out COVID-19 vaccines in mid-February, which was months behind many other nations, but have been ramping up efforts to distribute vaccines in the lead up to the Summer Games. It’s just a matter of whether those efforts will be enough to allay the increasing doubts about whether staging the Olympics is safe enough.