The Saturday editions of all national papers reported on remarks made during a remote press conference on Friday by International Olympic Committee Vice President Coates. He reportedly underscored that the Tokyo Olympics can be held safely and securely irrespective of Japan’s COVID-19 infection situation. Asked whether the Games can be convened even under a state of emergency, Coates said, “The answer is absolutely yes,” while citing advice on prevention and mitigation measures from the WHO and how Japan has “successfully” staged a number of test events lately. The senior IOC member made the comment in response to a query about the consensus allegedly forged among the members of the GOJ coronavirus taskforce subcommittee that the Olympics cannot and should not be held under a state of emergency. He spoke to the press following the conclusion of a three-day online meeting with the Japanese Olympic Committee and other organizers.
According to Sunday’s Mainichi, Coates’ controversial statement went viral on social media, triggering a wave of criticism of the IOC for “prioritizing money over the health and lives of the Japanese people.” A JOC source reportedly called the remark “out of line” and expressed concern that the Games could end up deepening the divide between the public and the participating athletes. Kyodo said the Japanese side was displeased with Coates’ remark based on the belief that it is bound to backfire by further alienating a skeptical Japanese public. The wire service claimed that IOC officials are “irritated” that opposition to holding the Games has not subsided in Japan.
In a related story, Nikkei wrote that coordination is underway for IOC President Bach to visit Japan in mid-June, saying that his final schedule will be arranged carefully by taking into account the COVID-19 situation in Tokyo. French President Macron has also decided to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games since France is set to host the 2024 Olympics in Paris.