In the 15-or-so hours since The Times ran their report, Olympic leaders from around the world have moved to quickly and unanimously reject the British paper’s reporting that the Japanese government had made up its mind to cancel the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The reporting, which cited one senior government official in Japan, was already contradictory to recent statements by Olympic leadership when published, and was overstated in its confidence relative to the actual words quoted by the source. While The Times, and many papers that picked it up, drafted a definitive death to the Olympic Games, the source was quoted as stating a personal opinion rather than an edict.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said “We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned, and our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer.”
The USOPC, like many national federations, has deferred to the IOC in discussions of whether the Games will happen, though privately they’ve told their athletes and national governing bodies to prepare for Tokyo.
(1/3) USOPC statement on the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020:
— USOPC News (@USOPC_News) January 22, 2021
The Japanese government said that it “clearly denies” The Times report, saying there is “No truth to report of possible Olympics cancellation.” Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga told Japanese parliament this week that the Games were expected to proceed.
The Australian Olympic Committee also put out a statement, referring to the “Tokyo Olympic Games rumour.”
“Both Japanese Prime Minister Suga and IOC President Bach have this week strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Tokyo Olympic Games going ahead in July this year. The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free.”
That statement also confirmed that the Australian Olympic Committee, Australian federal government, Queensland government, and Brisbane city council are moving forward with candidature to host the 2032 Games in Queensland. That is tangentially connected as The Times reported that Tokyo would turn its attention to trying to host in 2032 instead.
The Japanese Olympics chief Yasuhiro Yamashita called the report “preposterous” and a “fabrication.”
IOC statement on media reports regarding Tokyo 2020 pic.twitter.com/647pj5mx9U
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) January 22, 2021
In a sign of possible waning confidence, The Times has let the report slip off the front page of their website, in spite of being a story garnering a lot of attention globally.
This all comes in the context of last year, where a Japanese minister said on March 10th that Olympic postponement was “inconceivable,” two weeks before such a postponement happened.
But 2021 is different, with a light at the end of the tunnel and an immeasurably-greater understanding of the virus’ science, including treatments, testing, and multiple vaccines.