'There is no plan B' for Tokyo Olympics, IOC chief says

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Despite rising COVID-19 infections in Japan, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Thursday that there is “no reason whatsoever” to believe the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on July 23 as planned.

“This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful,” Bach told Japanese news agency Kyodo in an interview Thursday.

However, Bach admitted he could not guarantee that the stands would be full or rule out the possibility that the Games would be held without spectators, according to Kyodo.

Bach’s statement comes amid reports that the Japanese government has privately concluded that the upcoming Tokyo Olympics will have to be canceled.

On Friday, Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games called those reports “categorically untrue.”

“The renewed schedules and venues for the Tokyo 2020 Games, starting with the Opening Ceremony on July 23 this year, were determined at the IOC Session in July last year. All parties involved are working together to prepare for the successful Games this summer,” the cabinet secretariat said in a statement Friday. “We will implement all possible countermeasures against COVID-19 and continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer.”

The statement follows a report published Thursday evening by British newspaper The Times, which cited “a senior member of the ruling coalition” who said there is agreement that the Games are doomed and the focus now is on securing the event for the Japanese capital in the next available year, 2032.

The 2020 Summer Olympics were supposed to kick off in Tokyo last year on July 24. But in late March, amid mounting calls to delay or cancel the upcoming Games, the International Olympic Committee and Japan’s prime minister announced that the event would be held a year later due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Japan is facing a resurgence of COVID-19. The country of 126 million people reported the highest number of new cases in the Western Pacific region last week. The infection rate — currently at 32.8 cases per 100,000 people — increased by 4% over the previous week, according to the World Health Organization’s latest COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed 5,662 new cases of COVID-19 as well as an additional 87 fatalities from the disease on Thursday, bringing the cumulative totals to 348,646 cases and 4,829 deaths.

Japanase Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and 10 other prefectures due to climbing case counts and growing death tolls.

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