The head of the Australian Olympic Committee has blown off reports suggesting the Tokyo Games could be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying such rumours only cause athletes more anxiety.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll on Friday denied UK media reports the Japanese government was considering cancelling July’s Games, saying the organisation would push ahead with its planning.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in parliament on Friday also reiterated the Games would go ahead, as did International Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday.
However, Carroll admitted the Games would be stripped back almost exclusively to athletic competition, with social and cultural events canned.
Australian athletes will arrive in Tokyo no more than five days before their competition, and leave within 48 hours of the conclusion of competition. They will only spend time competing, training and in the Olympic Village.
The presence of spectators in stadiums is yet to be confirmed.
“Our chef de mission (Ian Chesterman) has already written to all the athletes to ease their anxiety about what was written,” Carroll told reporters.
“When the Japanese Prime Minister makes a statement, he makes a statement … if any country can handle a logistical challenge, it’s Japan.”
Carroll said he knew of no threshold – such as the number of new COVID-19 cases in Japan – at which the Japanese government would cancel the Games, emphasising no athletes would come into contact with the public.
Athletes will also be tested for COVID-19 every day.
Japan has been hit by COVID-19 more mildly than many other countries but a recent surge in cases has spurred it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.
About 80 per cent of people in Japan do not want the Olympics to be held this northern summer, according to recent opinion polls.
The Times had reported the Japan government would drop the Games and focus on staging it in 2032, when Brisbane hopes to host the event.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is yet to comment on the report.
“The AOC, federal government, Queensland government and Brisbane City Council are continuing to progress the candidature for the Olympic Games to be held in Queensland in 2032,” the AOC said in a statement earlier on Friday.
Carroll said he spoke with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday and they agreed athletes would not receive priority vaccinations pre-Games.
The athletes would be vaccinated on the same timetable as other Australians, whether that occurs before or after July’s Games.
AAP with Reuters