The postponed Tokyo Summer Olympics should be staged as scheduled next summer “at any cost,” Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto said Tuesday.
“All the people involved with the games are working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts toward next year under the circumstances they’ve been handed,” Hashimoto said at a news conference, according to a translation published by Kyodo News.
“I think we have to hold the games at any cost. … I want to concentrate all our efforts on measures against the coronavirus.”
Hashimoto addressed reporters four days after Olympic organizers and Japanese officials first met to begin outlining COVID-19 countermeasures for the Olympics and Paralympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 23 and August 25 next year, respectively.
A former Olympic speed skater and member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, Hashimoto is the latest top official to express optimism or determination about holding the Games next summer, despite the ongoing global spread of the novel coronavirus.
Organizing committee leader Toshiro Muto said last week that the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is “not a prerequisite” for holding the Olympics. And John Coates, who is overseeing the International Olympic Committee’s coordination efforts with local organizers in Japan, told Agence France-Presse on Monday that the Tokyo Olympics will go on as scheduled next summer “with or without Covid.”
“These will be the Games that conquered Covid,” he added.
Experts in public health and infectious diseases told USA TODAY Sports in July that they are skeptical the Olympics can or will be safely held next summer, due to the global spread of COVID-19 and the challenges of discovering and distributing a vaccine. The disease has infected more than 27 million people and left more than 900,000 dead, according to the World Health Organization.