Tokyo Games face skeptics, 1-day COVID-19 infection record

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FILE – In this June 3, 2020, photo, the Olympic rings float in the water at sunset in the Odaiba section in Tokyo. Masa Takaya, the spokesman for the Tokyo Olympics, said Thursday, July 9, 2020, he’s confident the postponed games can be held in 2021 despite a recent poll in Japan in which 77% of respondents said they did not believe the games could be held next year. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

TOKYO (AP) — The spokesman for the Tokyo Olympics expects the postponed games to go ahead in 2021 despite a recent poll in Japan in which 77% of respondents said they did not believe the games could be held next year.

The poll by the Japan News Network said only 17% thought it could be held next year in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Masa Takaya, the spokesman, was speaking Thursday on remote hookup on a day of contentious news for the Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo’s city government reported a single-day record of 224 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, surpassing a high of 204 in April. Though low by many standards, it marks a steady increase over the last week in the Japanese capital.

Japan has recorded about 1,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Takaya said the way the polls are constructed “may result in very different messages.” He said Tokyo’s only plan was to open the games on July 23, 2021.

Also, Takaya did not flatly deny a leaked report in almost all Japanese media that said organizers were on track to secure all venues for next year’s Olympics.

“Tokyo 2020 is aware of these media reports,” Takaya said. “I need to be very clear that this is not something that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government or the organizing committee has made a formal announcement on.”

Details of any progress are sure to be presented next week at scheduled meetings of the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee.

Organizers had previously said that 80% of the venues had been secured. Few expect local venue owners to defy the Japanese government, or the IOC, particularly if there are incentives in the new contracts.

Estimates in Japan put the cost of delay at $2 billion to $6 billion. The IOC and local organizers have not given any estimate.

A poll published last month by Japanese news agency Kyodo and a Tokyo television outlet found that 51.7% did not think the games should be held next year. But 46% wanted to see the rescheduled Olympics go forward.

Among those opposed, 27.7% said they should be canceled altogether, and 24% said they should be postponed again because of COVID-19.

The IOC and local organizers have ruled out another postponement and say they will be canceled if they don’t happen in 2021.

Takaya also dismissed a recent comment attributed in Japanese media to Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee. Mori reportedly said April was the deadline for deciding to go ahead with the Olympics.

“We don’t know in what kind of environment he might have made” such a comment, Takaya said. “In that respect, we don’t even know if he made such a comment.”

Takaya added: “We do not have any such deadline.”

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