IOC Vice President Says 2021 Tokyo Olympics Will Happen 'with or without COVID'

The Tokyo Summer Olympics are taking place next year regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, according to International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates.

"It will take place with or without COVID. The Games will start on July 23 next year," Coates told news agency AFP on Monday, according to multiple outlets.

"The Games were going to be, their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami," he added, referring to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. "Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel."

In late March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Summer Games would be rescheduled for the same time slot next year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The Olympics will now be held from July 23 through August 8, 2021.

There is still much uncertainty regarding the games, however. In June, various Japanese media sources published stories indicating that the Olympics will be “downsized,” “simplified” or “very different.”

Officials have not yet announced any specific modifications, but the reports indicated that athletes may face quarantines and coronavirus testing and seating could be reduced.

Following the published reports, Tokyo Olympics spokesman Masa Takaya appeared in an online news conference but did not confirm any of the leaked information about downsizing.

He did, however, address concerns about reducing the amount of seating, as millions of tickets have already been sold. “We want to brush away these concerns,” Takaya said, speaking to ticket holders.

“We understand that countermeasures for COVID-19 next year, particularly during games time, is one of the biggest things to address in preparing for the games next year,” he added. “But once again these countermeasures will be discussed in more depth from this autumn onward.”

Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said that costs must be cut for the rescheduled games, but added that ensuring athletes’ safety may lead to higher expenses.

“Unless safety and security are ensured, there will be uncertainty for the athletes-first point of view,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We must study measures including virus testing in order to ensure safety and security.”

The delay marks only the fourth time in modern Olympic history that the games have been disrupted.

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