Tokyo 2020 chief refuses to rule out last minute cancellation of Olympics

Credit: AP

The head of the Toyko 2020 Games has refused to rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Olympics, as more athletes test positive for Covid and rising anger among the Japanese population over the games.

Asked at a news conference if the Games might still be cancelled, Toshiro Muto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liase with other organisers if necessary.

He said: "We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases.

"We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again.

"At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."

Toshiro Muto made the comments on Tuesday Credit: AP

Covid cases are rising in Tokyo and the Games will be going ahead without any spectators.

There have been more than 70 cases of Covid-19 infections in Japan among those accredited for the Games, with most happening in the past few days.

Mr Muto made the comments hours after International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach had insisted cancelling the Games was “never an option”

Mr Bach sought to strike a different chord on Tuesday in his opening comments at the 138th IOC Session in Tokyo, insisting the Games could have “fallen to pieces” if the IOC had not taken the unprecedented decision to reschedule.

He said: “Cancellation would have been the easy way for us. We could have drawn on the insurance that we had at the time and moved on to Paris 2024.

Thomas Bach said the games could not be cancelled Credit: AP

“But in fact, cancellation was never an option for us – the IOC never abandons the athletes.

“Imagine for a moment what it would have meant if the leader of the Olympic movement, the IOC, would have added to the already many doubts surrounding the Olympic Games, it would have poured fuel on to this fire.

“Our doubts could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Olympic Games could have fallen to pieces. That is why we had to keep these doubts to ourselves.”

Friday’s opening ceremony will also take place behind closed doors and is expected to be a dramatically scaled-back affair, with only media and dignitaries present, but it has been confirmed that Japan’s Emperor Naruhito will attend.

Anger in Japan over the continued presence of the Games has been rising in recent days, with several large sponsors now saying they will not attend the opening ceremony over fears of upsetting the local population.

Japanese car giant Toyota said on Monday they would not be running any television ads for the duration of the Olympics or even sending their executives to Friday’s opening ceremony.

In a poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.

Japan, whose vaccination programme has lagged that of most other developed nations, has recorded more than 840,000 cases and 15,055 deaths.