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Tokyo 2020 chief says he 'won't rule out' cancelling Games despite WHO's praise

With the Olympics already underway, as women’s softball and football start today, the chief of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee has not ruled out cancelling the event as more Covid-19 cases emerge.

21 July 2021, Japan, Tokyo: Olympic rings stand in the evening twilight. Source: Getty

The official opening ceremony is set to happen on Friday but yesterday, Toshiro Muto told media that the Games continuing will depend on whether Covid cases rise or fall.

It comes as further major sponsors pull out of the opening ceremony. Yesterday, Toyota announced it won’t be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Games and the company founder’s grandson, will also skip the opening ceremony.

Now, more Japanese companies have pulled executives out of attending the ceremony, according to Bloomberg. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp. will also skip the opening.

"We can't predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases," Muto said.

"We agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises."

Muto’s comments stand in contrast to the director general of WHO - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said today the Olympics “should not be judged by the tally of Covid-19 cases that arise because eliminating risk is impossible”.

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That’s despite IOC President Thomas Bach saying cancellation was never an option. Source: Breakfast

“The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted,” he said.

The number of Games-linked Covid-19 cases in Japan this month was 79 today, with more international athletes testing positive at home and unable to travel, the Associated Press reports.

“The mark of success in the coming fortnight is not zero cases,” Tedros said, noting the athletes who already tested positive in Japan, including at the athletes village in Tokyo Bay, where most of the 11,000 competitors will stay.

Health experts in Japan have warned of the Olympics becoming a “super-spreader” event bringing tens of thousands of athletes, officials and workers together during a local state of emergency.

“There is no zero risk in life,” said Tedros, who began his keynote speech minutes after the first softball game began in Fukushima, and added Japan was “giving courage to the whole world.”

Earlier this month, Japan put Tokyo under a state of emergency that would last through the Olympics, fearing an ongoing Covid surge will multiply during the Games.

The Summer Olympics, already delayed a year by the pandemic, begin July 23 and close August 8 and will be played without spectators.