The Japanese Government has denied reports that this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai told a press conference there was "absolutely no truth" in the report from British newspaper The Times, which claimed the Government had privately concluded Tokyo 2020 would be cancelled.
"No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult," an unnamed senior member of Japan's ruling coalition told The Times.
"Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen."
The source also claimed Japan and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were instead hoping to host the Games in 2032.
"Suga is not emotionally invested in the Games," the source said.
"But they want to show that they are ready to go, so that they will get another chance in 11 years.
"In these circumstances, no one could really object to that."
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government joined Sakai in vehemently denying the cancellation of Tokyo 2020, which had already been rescheduled from last year due to the global health crisis.
"Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as the Host City, will continue to exert its utmost efforts in order to materialise holding a safe and secure Games in close collaboration with all parties concerned such as the Japanese Government, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)," it said in a statement.
Concerns over the fate of Tokyo 2020 have intensified since the New Year following a rise in coronavirus cases in countries such as Japan, thought to be largely caused by more transmissible variants of COVID-19.
Suga was forced to declare a state of emergency in several areas, including the capital city Tokyo, as a result.
With a recent Kyodo News survey finding around 80 per cent of Japanese people want this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to be cancelled or postponed, there have also been calls to push Tokyo 2020 back to 2024.
Organisers have remained confident the Games will go ahead, however, with IOC President Thomas Bach claiming yesterday that there was "no reason whatsoever" for the Olympics not to open on July 23 and there was no "Plan B".
IOC vice-president and Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission chair John Coates has insisted preparations for the Games continue and rejected the report that Japan was aiming for 2032 instead.
"There’s been no discussion on that at all," Coates said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"There is no discussion on 2032 with Japan because there is no discussion on not proceeding in Japan."
The IOC has also described the report as "categorically untrue".
"Together with its Japanese partners and friends, the IOC is fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year," an IOC statement said.
A statement from the IPC has repeated the IOC message to quell fears of a cancellation for the Paralympics, currently scheduled for August 24 to September 5.
"Since last March’s postponement, everyone involved in the delivery of the Games has been working tirelessly to develop COVID-19 countermeasures and plans which we believe will mitigate the risk for the athletes, all Games stakeholders and, importantly, the Japanese public," the IPC statement said.
"In early February, the IOC, IPC and Tokyo 2020 will publish the first editions of playbooks targeting Games stakeholders.
"These playbooks will start to explain exactly how we aim to deliver this summer’s event and outline the personal responsibilities each person attending the Games must follow to ensure safe and secure Games."
The IPC statement also claimed an "extensive testing programme" and "valuable learning experiences" from other sporting events held during the pandemic would allow Tokyo 2020 to take place safely.
"Compared to March 2020, we now know much more about how the COVID-19 virus behaves, much more about how to organise safe sport events during a pandemic and are encouraged by the international roll-out of several vaccines," the IPC said.
"By the time of the Games this summer, we are optimistic that daily case numbers will be much lower than during these dark winter months.
"We are also confident that the extensive testing programme to be implemented before, during and after the Games - one of several measures that will be taken targeting Games stakeholders - will help minimise the risk of virus transmission.
"Finally, each sport event that has taken place globally since the outbreak of the virus has provided us all with valuable learning experiences which are helping to continually shape our plans for Tokyo.
"There is no doubt the Tokyo 2020 Games will be very different to any previous Games and that this summer’s event looks a long way off right now.
"However, we believe that with the robust measures and plans we have in place, the Games can and will go ahead safely."