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Japan affirms Olympics commitment as cancellation rumors swirl

Japan affirms Olympics commitment as cancellation rumors swirl
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Japan on Friday said the country is moving ahead with plans to host the Olympic Games this summer following rumors that the event would be canceled amid a new surge in coronavirus infections. 

According to Reuters, a Japanese government spokesman said there was “no truth” to a report in Britain’s Times newspaper that the government “privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus.” 

The Times reported that a senior member of Japan’s ruling coalition said “no one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult” and that the new focus was on securing the Tokyo Games for 2032, the next available Olympic year. 

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However, both Japan and International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials said the Times’s reporting was false, with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai saying at a news conference Friday, “We clearly deny the report.” 

Japan Olympic Committee head Yasuhiro Yamashita later told Reuters that the Times report was “a fabrication,” adding, “It’s wrong and it’s ridiculous even having to comment on this.”

Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, also said there had so far been no discussions of canceling or postponing the Games, which had already been moved from the initially scheduled year of 2020 due to the pandemic. 

An organizing committee source also said in a statement that the Japanese government and IOC were “fully focused” on hosting the games as scheduled to start on July 23. 

“It is very disappointing to see that the Times is developing such a tabloid-like story with an untrustworthy source,” an organizing committee source told Reuters. “The national government is fully committed to delivering a safe and secure Games.” 

This comes after Japanese officials last week extended a state of emergency across the country, bringing a total of 11 districts under emergency orders as the country surpassed 300,000 confirmed cases. 

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As of Friday, Japan has had more than 354,000 COVID-19 cases, with nearly 5,000 fatalities as a result of the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

Last week’s emergency order, set to last until Feb. 7, instructs companies to urge employees to work from home, with residents being told to only leave their homes for essential reasons. Restaurants are also instructed to end alcohol service by 7 p.m. and close by 8 p.m.

The Tokyo Games 121-day torch relay, which is slated to begin in Fukushima, is planned to start on March 25.