Japan Insists Tokyo Olympic Games Will Take Place Despite Pandemic Uncertainty Japan says the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 151 days, even with much of the country in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus.
NPR logo

Japan Insists Tokyo Olympic Games Will Take Place Despite Pandemic Uncertainty

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/959529645/959529646" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Japan Insists Tokyo Olympic Games Will Take Place Despite Pandemic Uncertainty

Japan Insists Tokyo Olympic Games Will Take Place Despite Pandemic Uncertainty

Japan Insists Tokyo Olympic Games Will Take Place Despite Pandemic Uncertainty

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/959529645/959529646" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Japan says the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 151 days, even with much of the country in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Organizers promise that the Tokyo Olympics, delayed because of the pandemic, will happen this summer. But much of Japan is in a state of emergency, and no one there has even been vaccinated yet. Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: On Friday, government spokesman Manabu Sakai denied an anonymously sourced report by the British newspaper The Times that the Japanese government itself has privately given up on the games and will try to save face by bidding for the next available slot in 2032. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated before Parliament Friday that he's determined to make the games happen. And International Olympic Chief Thomas Bach said Thursday that there is no Plan B. One of the Olympics' most vocal critics, author Ryu Honma, says Japanese officials feel they've invested too much money and prestige in the games to pull out now.

RYU HONMA: (Speaking Japanese).

KUHN: "Once they've made the decision, they can never reverse it," he says, "even if they realize it's wrong." "Nobody wants to take responsibility for canceling it," he adds.

In a private speech this month, Tokyo Organizing Committee Chief Yoshiro Mori admitted he doesn't know if the games will go ahead or not but added that he can't voice his doubts in public. Japan's biggest cities, Tokyo and Osaka, and several other prefectures are currently under a state of emergency until at least February 7. The government will probably have to make its decision before the Olympic torch relay begins March 25. A Kyodo News Agency poll this month found about 80% of Japanese think the games should either be cancelled or postponed. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a tweet they hadn't heard anything suggesting that the games aren't happening, and so they continue to train and prepare.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul.

SOUNDBITE OF TOE'S "TREMOLO AND DELAY"

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.