Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an emergency declaration this week to fight the virus, restricting the country after it appeared to have averted a major epidemic.
“I don’t think anyone can say whether it will be possible to control it by next July or not,” said Tokyo Organizing Committee CEO Toshiro Muto at a remote press conference . “We are certainly unable to give you a clear answer. “
The Olympics were postponed last month with a new opening scheduled for July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on August 24.
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Abe has been criticized for being slow to act against the coronavirus. Opposition political leaders have suggested he downplayed the severity of the virus and said it may be linked to wanting to host the Olympics this year.
“We made the decision to postpone the Games for a year,” said Muto. “So that means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the Games. We sincerely hope that the humanity of next year will succeed in overcoming the coronavirus crisis. “
Muto was asked if there were any plans other than hosting the Games in 2021.
“Rather than thinking of alternative plans, we have to make every effort,” he said. “Humanity should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so that it can develop treatments, drugs and vaccines. “
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Japan has reported around 5,000 cases and 100 deaths. The country has the oldest population in the world and COVID-19 can be particularly serious for the elderly.
Muto has been repeatedly asked about the additional costs of the postponement, which have been estimated by the Japanese media to be between $ 2 billion and $ 6 billion. He said it was too early to know the price and who would pay.
He also acknowledged that the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics had taken out insurance.
“Tokyo 2020 has multiple insurance policies,” he said. “But it is not yet clear whether the postponement of the Games can be considered a covered event. “
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He was also questioned about the Olympic flame, which was removed from public display this week in Fukushima prefecture. Muto had a conversation outside the microphone with a spokesperson before talking about the flame.
“After the cancellation of the Olympic Torch Relay, the Olympic Torch was placed under the leadership of Tokyo 2020,” said Muto. “Obviously, in the future, it may be on display somewhere. However, for now, it is under the leadership of Tokyo 2020 and I will not comment on the matter further. “
There are suggestions that the International Olympic Committee may consider taking the flame on a world tour, hoping to use it as a symbol of the fight against the virus. However, any visit would be impossible until the travel restrictions are lifted.
Removing the Japanese flame could also disturb the hosts.