10:50 GMT02 July 2020
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    The chief executive of the Tokyo Olympics revealed Friday that the summer games, which were originally scheduled to begin in July and then postponed until July 23, 2021, may not even take place then due to the global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and the increasing number of cases in Japan.

    “I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, AP reported. “We certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”

    “We have made the decision to postpone the games by one year,” Muto continued. “So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.”

    When asked if the committee had considered other plans, apart from holding the games in 2021, Muto responded: “Rather than think about alternative plans, we should put in all of our effort. Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can develop treatments, medicines and vaccines.”

    Japanese media has suggested that postponing the games could cost the country between $2 billion and $6 billion, according to AP. However, when pressed on the issue, Muto said it was too soon to determine the cost of the delay.

    “Tokyo 2020 has taken out several insurance policies. But whether the postponement of the games qualifies as an event that is covered is not clear yet,” Muto explained.

    Japanese officials on Wednesday announced that the Olympic torch, a symbol of the Olympic games that burns for the duration of the athletic tournament before being extinguished at the closing ceremony, had been moved to a “undisclosed location.”

    “After the Olympic torch relay was canceled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020,” Muto noted. “Obviously in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I’m not going to make any further comment on the issue.”

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an emergency declaration for seven prefectures on Tuesday in the fight against COVID-19; the number of cases in the country was above 5,500 on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and the number of related deaths was 99. Abe’s delayed response to the crisis has been criticized by many experts and other Japanese government officials. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is pushing for additional business lockdowns to contain the virus, claiming that asking residents “to use self-restraint and [to] stay home is not enough,” the Guardian reported.

    The Olympics is not the only sporting event to be closed down amid the global pandemic. The Championships, Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, was canceled last Wednesday in an effort to stop the spread of the respiratory illness.


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