‘Too difficult’: Japan braces for Olympics wipe out
The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled and the focus is now on securing the Games for the city in 2032, the next available year.
According to a senior member of the ruling coalition, there is agreement that the Games are doomed. The aim is to find a face-saving way of announcing the cancellation that leaves open the possibility of Tokyo playing host at a later date.
"No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it's too difficult," the source said.
"Personally I don't think it's going to happen."
Publicly the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government insist that the 32nd Games, already postponed by one year, can go ahead.
"We will have full anti-infection measures in place and proceed with preparation with a determination to achieve the Games that can deliver hope and courage throughout the world," Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister, told parliament on Monday.
However, according to the source, the winter wave of the coronavirus, which has led a state of emergency in Japan's biggest cities, has tipped the balance.
Opinion polls show that 80 per cent of Japanese are against the Games going ahead in July and August.
The Australian Open, due to begin on February 8, is beset by problems. More than 1200 have flown to Melbourne for the tennis tournament but cases have been detected and some players have been confined to hotels.
The cancellation of the Olympics would be a financial disaster for Japan, which has spent at least dollars 25 billion on preparations, three quarters of it public money.
The aim is to maintain the facade of battling determinedly to go ahead in the hope that when they are inevitably cancelled, the 2032 Games will be given to Tokyo out of sympathy.
Paris is due to host the Games in 2024 and Los Angeles has already been chosen as the venue for 2028.
Brisbane and south-east Queensland had been a frontrunner to host the 2032 Olympics, but could lose out in the case Tokyo is handed the bid in sympathy.
A decision on which city will stage the Olympics in 2032 is expected to be taken by 2025.
"Suga is not emotionally invested in the Games," the senior source said.
"But they want to show that they are ready to go, so that they will get another chance."
The Olympics were called off in 1916, 1940 and 1944 but this would be the first cancellation in peacetime.
Last year the decision to postpone was made after Canada and Australia announced that they would not send athletes if they went ahead.
"If someone like President Biden was to say that US athletes cannot go, then we could say, 'Well, now it is impossible'," the senior source added.
The latest idea being pushed by the IOC is a televised Games with athletes but no spectators. This would suit the IOC, which makes most of its income from broadcast rights, but not the Japanese authorities, which would make money from ticket sales. Such an option has been ruled out by Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister who runs the Tokyo organising committee. A problem for Mr Suga is that Mr Mori, 83, a powerbroker in his Liberal Democratic Party, has lung cancer. To some in the party, cancellation would rob an ailing man of his final dream.
Originally published as 'Too difficult': Japan braces for Olympics wipe out