BY RYUSEI TAKAHASHI, STAFF WRITER
Despite growing speculation surrounding the global health risks of hosting the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike agreed Wednesday that the country will move forward with the global sporting event.
The two are the latest in a string of top government officials and organizers for the Tokyo Games who have recently tried to quell concerns over whether it is feasible to host the games amid a worldwide pandemic.
“The prime minister and I both hope to move forward with plans to host the 2020 Games,” Koike told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office following the talks. “Regarding virus countermeasures, the capital will continue to work closely with the central government in strengthening hospital capacity and increasing testing numbers.”
The meeting between the two was the first since Suga took office last week.
The International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission will hold remote meetings Thursday and Friday, after which John Coates, IOC vice president and chair of the coordination commission, is expected to announce a framework for how the games could be held next summer.
In a series of public statements early this month, top government officials and organizers insisted the games would not be canceled, drawing further ire from opponents who continue to warn against the danger of inviting athletes and spectators into the country before the virus is dealt with.
On Sept. 7, Coates said the 2020 Games “will take place with or without COVID-19.”
A day later, Koike said the capital will host the games “by all means,” and Seiko Hashimoto, the minister in charge of the 2020 Games, said the following day the games should be held “at any cost.”
On Tuesday, IOC President Thomas Bach said recent sporting events around the world should provide confidence in preparing for the games.
The 2020 Games were originally scheduled to begin this year in July, but were postponed in March to next summer.
Experts have pointed out repeatedly that, for the games to be held safely, the virus would have to be conquered not just in Japan but in every country from which people are expected to travel to watch the quadrennial sporting event. At the same time, canceling or postponing the event further will have a devastating effect on Japan, which has already spent billions of yen preparing.
The government will exempt athletes competing at next year’s games from the 14-day self-quarantine period currently required for all travelers arriving from abroad. The athletes will have to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of leaving their own country.