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The head of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics said the games could be “scrapped” entirely if there was any delay to the rearranged 2021 date.
The comments were made by Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori, who was asked if the event could face a further delay if a vaccine was not found in time.
“No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped," Mori said in the interview with Japanese sports daily Nikkan Sport published Tuesday.
The games, originally scheduled to begin in July of this year, were postponed in March and are currently set to begin in July 2021. But experts have warned that without a widely available vaccine — which most experts say is at least a year away — the games simply could not go ahead.
If the games do not go ahead, it will make it the highest-profile global event to be canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
And Mori wasn't the only expert talking pessimistically on Tuesday about the future of the Olympics.
“Unless an effective vaccine is developed, I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year,” Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura told reporters in Tokyo. “I’m not saying at this point that they shouldn’t be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan ... it’s a worldwide issue.”
Mori and Yokokura are adding their voices to a growing list of experts who have cast doubt on the viability of the Games taking place in 2021.
Earlier this month, Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious diseases at Kobe University, said he was “very pessimistic about holding the Olympics Games next summer” while leading global health scientist Devi Sridhar said it was “very unrealistic” the 2021 Games would happen unless a viable vaccine can be developed and rolled out.
While some scientists in the U.K. and China believe they will have a viable vaccine by September, these vaccines are likely only going to be used in emergency situations to protect health workers during second-wave outbreaks. Scientists have never before developed a vaccine for a coronavirus, and even a two-year turnaround timeline for a widely available vaccine would break all records for the development of such a drug.
Cover: A man with a face mask against the spread of the new coronavirus walks in front of Miraitowa and Someity, mascots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics at a park in Tokyo Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency to all of Japan from just Tokyo and other urban areas as the virus continues to spread. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)