Olympic officials want Biden’s help to save Tokyo Games: ‘It’s up to America’

Tokyo – Organizers of this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo have insisted on recent speculation that the Games would have to be scrapped due to the epidemic. The team will have one more person to press the message: President Biden.

“Mr. Biden is dealing with a difficult situation with the coronovirus,” said Hariyuki Takahashi, executive board member of Japan’s Olympic Organizing Committee. “But if he makes a positive statement about the Olympics going forward, we are strong Will gain momentum. “

America brings the largest contingent of athletes and the richest pot of television to the Games. It is also an ally and military defender of Japan, so the expression of determination to move forward would be impressive with a skilled Japanese public and reassuring other countries not sure of sending athletes to Tokyo.

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Uncertainty about the Games is increasing as virus cases have resumed in many countries and vaccination programs have stalled. A British newspaper reported last week that Japan had stopped hosting the Olympics this year. The government called the report “clearly untrue”.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on Friday held a phone conversation with the National Olympic Committees around the world to reassure them about the Games and discuss coronovirus vaccination for athletes. He has said that there are no alternative plans for the Tokyo Olympics.

Mr. Takahashi said that putting America on board with the Games, including Olympic broadcaster NBC, was the most important task.

“It’s for America. I hate to say it, but Thomas Bach and the IOC are not the ones who are capable of making decisions about sports. They don’t have the level of leadership,” he said.

Mr. Biden has not spoken publicly about the Olympics since becoming president because he has a preference for fighting the epidemic. When asked about Mr. Biden’s views on the Olympics on Friday, White House press secretary Jane Saki said she was not familiar with him.

Following a UK newspaper report, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement on Friday, “It was focused on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes before the Games this summer.”

In response to Mr. Takahashi’s suggestion that a strong statement from Mr. Biden was needed, an IOC spokesman said: “It is regrettable that Mr. Takahashi is not aware of the facts. First: It is the USOPC that decides on the US Olympic and Paralympic teams. Second: The USOPC has never left doubt about its involvement. Therefore, his comments are obsolete. “

The spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Takahashi’s suggestion that Mr. Bach and the IOC were not able to make decisions about the Games.

This year, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has also reiterated a strong view, despite the Japanese public opposing the turnout of about 80%. He said in Parliament on Friday, “I am determined to organize the games safely and securely in July. In close cooperation with organizations both domestically and abroad.”

However, in recent times there has been more open discussion about options for hosting this summer in Japan. Senior members of the minority party have aligned with the government to suggest that the Olympic program could be pushed back, with Tokyo replacing Paris in 2024 or the next open slot in 2032. Opposition politicians, meanwhile, have urged Mr. Suga. Consider ending the event altogether.

Japan Olympic Committee member Kaori Yamaguchi said the IOC needed to be more open about possible options for the Games this year. She said that it was worth discussing the option of postponing the event at an unspecified point in the future. If Japan goes ahead with the Olympics and runs into problems like sports transition groups, it will tarnish their legacy and make countries less prepared to host the event.

“It’s scary to have a Plan B,” she said.

Write Alastair Gayle at [email protected]

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