U.S. First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Friday, according to Japanese reports. But organizers said on Wednesday that the ceremony will be a scaled-down affair with “sobering” performances.
The head of the Tokyo games organizing committee Muto Toshiro on Wednesday said that even at this late stage it is not possible to rule out cancelling the games. His comment contradicted remarks by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who the same day said that “cancellation was never an option.”
“We will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” said Muto at a press conference. “At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
Tokyo is still facing a serious number of coronavirus infections, with 1,387 cases recorded on Tuesday, and Japan is officially in a state of emergency that will continue until Aug. 22.
More than 70 people accredited to attend the games have tested positive for coronavirus. Among the most recent cases are two South African footballers staying in the athletes’ village.
The Games were delayed by a year due to the severity of the coronavirus outbreak. They officially get under way on Friday (July 23, 2021) and run until Aug. 8. But they remain branded as Tokyo 2020. The Paralympics are set to run Aug. 24-Sept. 5, 2021.
The opening ceremony, along with most sporting events, will be held without spectators present. While some 15 world leaders are expected at the opening ceremony, many athletes are expected to give it a miss for health reasons.
“The great achievement of the creative team of this ceremony is that they have managed to accept the empty seats as a fact and still retain a focus on the athletes,” said Marco Balich, senior adviser to the executive producer of the opening ceremony.
Ahead of the Friday opening ceremony, the first competitions have already taken place. On Wednesday the Japanese softball team kicked off proceedings by beating Australia.