Olympic Flame Arrives in Japan, but Games Prospects Are Dimming

Yoshiro Mori, : Tokyo 2020 Olympic

The Olympic flame arrived in Japan today from Greece as doubts continue to grow that the Games can be held on schedule due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a welcoming ceremony on Friday at an air base in northern Japan, Tokyo Olympics organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori mentioned “the difficult situation” caused by the virus while claiming that “We will ensure a safe and secure games.”

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a statement saying that it remains “fully committed” to the Tokyo Games and sees “no need for any drastic decisions at this stage.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long insisted that the Games will start on July 24 as scheduled, but following a video conference with Group of Seven leaders on Monday he refused to confirm the start date to reporters. “I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly,” he said, without defining “perfection.”

But with qualifying events being canceled one after the other and even many torch relay stages now scheduled to be held minus spectators, postponement is looking more likely. On Thursday Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, said in an interview that “anything is possible,” including a delay. “It isn’t a decision that has to be made at this moment,” he added.

One obstacle to a postponement is that, according to the IOC’s contract with Japanese government, the Games must be held in 2020. Any delay beyond that would require the negotiation of a new deal, something that both sides would like to avoid. But if the pandemic is still raging at the end of the year, as many experts predict, a return to the drawing board may be inevitable.