Olympics not possible under current conditions, says Tokyo head

Published July 23, 2020
TOKYO: Visitors wearing protective face masks pose for a photo through the Olympic rings in front of Japan Olympics Museum, a day before the start of the one-year countdown to the Tokyo Olympics that have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus disease, on Wednesday. — Reuters
TOKYO: Visitors wearing protective face masks pose for a photo through the Olympic rings in front of Japan Olympics Museum, a day before the start of the one-year countdown to the Tokyo Olympics that have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus disease, on Wednesday. — Reuters

TOKYO: The delayed Tokyo Olympics could not be held next year if conditions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continue as they are, the president of the organising committee said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK, Yoshiro Mori said he was hopeful the situation would improve and suggested a vaccine was the key.

“If this kind of situation (with Covid-19) continues, is it possible to hold the games?” Mori was asked by NHK.

“If current situation continues, we couldn’t,” Mori replied.

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23, 2021 a year from Thursday. A small, 15-minute ceremony without fans is scheduled for Thursday at the new national stadium to mark the date.

The International Olympic Committee and Japanese organisers have repeatedly expressed confidence the games will take place, though they have offered few details on how they can happen in the middle of a pandemic.

The IOC and organisers have also said the Olympics will not be postponed again and would be cancelled.

“It would be too much for us to answer each of these hypothetical questions,” Mori said. “I dont think this situation will last for another year.”

Researchers have said a vaccine could be six-to-nine months away, which Mori said was the key. Some, however, question if young athletes should be a priority, and if all would agree to be vaccinated.

“Whether the Olympics can be done or not is about whether humanity can beat the coronavirus,” Mori said. “Specifically, to develop a vaccine or drug is the first point.”

Organisers and the IOC say they want to simplify the games to help reduce the soaring costs. But officials cannot say now if fans will be permitted next year, or if athletes will face quarantines. They say few details will be available until the fall.

Plans call for the full contingent of 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes to be competing at 42 venues.

About 1,000 deaths in Japan have been attributed to the coronavirus. Tokyo has seen a rising number of daily cases in the last few weeks, which reached a high of almost 300 last week.

But the numbers are relatively modest for a metropolitan area of 14 million.

KANAE Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign 
Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Wednesday.—AFP
KANAE Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Wednesday.—AFP

TACKLING SPORTS ABUSE

Human Rights activists maintain that Japan must act to tackle rampant abuse of youth athletes by sports coaches before it hosts the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics next year.

The call comes after a new report warned that abusive behaviour by coaches remained common in the country.

Human Rights Watch “found that child abuse is still rampant in sports training throughout Japanese schools, federations and elite sports,” the watchdog’s national director Kanae Doi said.

“While the topic of child abuse in sports today is a global problem, we chose to focus on Japan for 2020 because the Olympics and Paralympics are coming to Japan,” she said.

“Every Japanese knows unfortunately that corporal punishment... has been prevalent in Japanese sports.” The group documented the experiences of more than 800 former child athletes, including Olympians, in 50 sports across the nation.

It found many had been punched, kicked or experienced verbal abuse, while others reported being ordered to eat excessively, denied water or told to train even when injured.

“I was hit so many times I cannot count,” one athlete told. Abuse in Japanese sports has made headlines in recent years.

In 2018, a 13-year-old boy in a school badminton team killed himself, with his parents accusing the boy’s coach of longstanding verbal insults and abuse.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2020

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