A western Japanese city cancelled the Tokyo Olympics torch relay over spiking coronavirus cases on Wednesday, fueling fresh fears about whether the pandemic-postponed Games should plow ahead with just 100 days until the opening ceremony. whilst Tokyo unveiled installations featuring the Olympic rings and mascots to celebrate the 100-day milestone, organisers face monumental challenges as virus surges. Organisers have barred overseas fans and postponed test events, but they insist preparations are on target .
Cancellation is "certainly not" on the table, International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice chairman John Coates told reporters on Wednesday."The Tokyo Games are going to be the sunshine at the top of the tunnel."
For organisers, there are some causes for optimism.
The Olympic torch is on its way across Japan, despite being forced off public roads within the Osaka region where it had been being carried around a loop Wednesday with the overall public kept away.And vaccination programmes are ramping up in many countries, with some athletes already inoculated.Japan won't require Olympic participants to be vaccinated, but the IOC is encouraging jabs and has secured Chinese-made doses for athletes in countries without access to them.
In Japan, sports events are still on, with crowd numbers capped, and fans became wont to virus rules which will be implemented at this summer's Games, including a ban on cheering.North Korea's decision to skip Tokyo 2020 over virus concerns has not prompted a rush for the exits, with athletes mostly seeming impatient for a return to the international stage.
"These past 14 months are very motivating for all folks ," five-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer Katie Ledecky said last week."Once we get there we actually want to point out the planet all the work that we've put in."
In Japan, a historic golf Masters win by Hideki Matsuyama and swimmer Rikako Ikee's comeback, just two years after being diagnosed with leukaemia, are offering a feel-good factor.But there is no disguising the challenges quite a year after the historic postponement.Covid-19 surges across Japan have forced the govt to tighten restrictions only weeks after they were lifted and on Wednesday, the top of Tokyo's Medical Association warned the rising infections could make holding the Games "really difficult".
The governor of western Ehime region announced the general public torch relay are going to be scrapped within the city of Matsuyama, citing the "extreme pressure" on local medical services from rising cases.Coates acknowledged things , but insisted organisers and Olympic officials have prepared for "the worst possible scenarios"."Of course we're concerned, in fact safety remains our priority, but we believe that we're prepared for the worst situations."
Organisers have released "playbooks" outlining anti-virus measures, which can be updated later this month.Tens of thousands of athletes and other Olympic participants coming back from overseas are going to be ready to skip quarantine, and aren't required to point out proof of vaccination.But athletes are going to be asked to limit their movements, stay only at the Olympic village during their events and face regular virus testing.
'Situation is uncertain'
Overseas fans have already been barred from the Games, and a choice on domestic spectator numbers could are available April.Still, the atmosphere are going to be faraway from the standard rowdy celebrations, and it remains unclear how strong demand for tickets are going to be once they finally return on sale.Polls show most Japanese back either an extra postponement or cancellation, but the numbers in favour of holding the Games this summer have crept up, to around 27 per cent in March, from just 11 per cent in January.
In Tokyo, residents expressed mixed feelings about the prospect of the Games."In these dark times, anything which will brighten up the day, like getting a trophy , or anything which will energise are going to be appreciated," 27-year-old Kenzo Tanaka told AFP.But Midori Hinamoto, 65, said she felt "the situation is uncertain.""I think the Olympics should be cancelled, if that's possible."