TOKYO - A Japanese professor of infectious disease says he is “very pessimistic” the postponed Tokyo Olympics can open in 15 months.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious disease at Kobe University, said Monday speaking in English on a teleconference. “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions; one, controlling COVID-19 in Japan, and controlling COVID-19 everywhere.”
Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, expressed similar reservations 10 days ago. Since then, the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee have said there is no "Plan B'' other than working for the Olympics to open on July 23, 2021.
“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation," Iwata said, speaking at a forum arranged by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.
“You have to invite so many athletes from many, many places, which is not very compatible with this COVID-19 infection that is causing a pandemic. Japan might be able to control this disease by next summer. And I wish we could. But I don’t think that will happen everywhere on earth.”
Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori, left, and CEO Toshiro Muto, right, attend teleconference with International Olympic Committee member John Coates, who heads the inspection team for Tokyo Olympics, in Tokyo Thursday, April 16, 2020. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool Photo via AP
Japan was spared during the initial stage of the coronavirus outbreak. But cases are now spiking, particularly in Tokyo and other large cities, As of Monday, there were about 12,000 detected infections in Japan and about 250 deaths.
The Olympics draw 11,000 athletes, with 4,400 Paralympics also attending with large staffs. Athletes are to stay in a sprawling housing complex on Tokyo Bay, The Olympics draw thousands of foreign visitors, and depend on air travel and hundreds of hotels.
Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion or organize the Olympics although a government audit put the figure at twice that. Local estimates say the postponement will cost between $2 billion and $6 billion with Japanese governments picking up almost all the bills.