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Tokyo Olympics could be staged without spectators: ‘It’s not a must-have’

tokyo-olympics-coronavirus-ap A tourist wearing a protective mask in Tokyo's Odaiba district, with the Olympic rings in the background | AP

As organisers of the Tokyo Olympics continue to reassure the Japanese public that the quadrennial event will go ahead as planned and open on July 23, it is likely that it could be staged without spectators, former International Olympic Committee vice-president Dick Pound has said.

Japan is currently struggling with rising cases of COVID-19 and despite recent polls showing that more than 80 per cent of Japanese public think the Olympics should be cancelled or postponed, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has called the staging of the event as “a proof of human victory against the coronavirus.”

Pound also said reiterated the IOC has long said if the Games cannot be held this time, there will not be another postponement and it will be cancelled.

“It’s either 2021, or nothing,” Pound said.

“The question is—is this a ‘must-have’ or ‘nice-to-have’. It’s nice to have spectators. But it’s not a must-have,” he told a Japanese news agency.

He added that no one can guarantee the Games will open on July 23, there is a “very, very good chance” that they will.

However, a former London Games chief executive has said that it is unlikely to go ahead considering the pandemic’s reach across the world. Sir Keith Mills said to the BBC that the organisers haven’t cancelled it yet, but they are running out of time.

The opening ceremony is likely to feature 6,000 athletes while around 11,000 are expected to compete, Japanese media have reported. Paralympic athletes are expected to be about 4,400.

In the history of the Games, the event has been cancelled only five times: the 1916, 1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics, and Winter Games in 1940 and 1944.

Japan has spent at least USD 25 billion for the Olympics. The IOC has already acknowledged that its finances are under pressure due to the Games being postponed by a year.

A University of Oxford study showed that Tokyo is the most expensive Summer Olympics on record.

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