Japan is “determined” to host the Olympic Games in 2021 despite the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that caused it to be put off this year, new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the UN General Assembly on Friday.
“In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic,” the Japanese P.M. said in his first international speech since he took office last week.
“I will continue to spare no effort in order to welcome you to Games that are safe and secure,” he added in his videotaped address to the annual General Assembly, held virtually this year because of the pandemic.
Suga last week replaced Shinzo Abe, who resigned as Japan’s prime minister for health reasons.
Japan’s Olympics organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have expressed increasing confidence in recent weeks that the Games can be held next year, irrespective of whether a vaccine is available by then. However, there are still serious doubts that this is feasible given the current state of the pandemic worldwide.
Moreover, the Olympic fever has died down considerably in Japan, with fewer than one-third of Japanese in favour of hosting the Games next year, according to surveys carried out this summer.
Japanese organisers and the IOC recently began discussing a long series of potential countermeasures against the virus. Olympic athletes could, for example, commit to limiting their movements during the championships and spectator gauges could be restricted.
The unprecedented postponement of the Olympics has given rise to logistical challenges and additional expenditure, forcing organisers to envisage cost-cutting measures such as scaling back the usually lavish opening and closing ceremonies.