The rescheduled 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo still look to be set for 2021 competition, Tokyo’s governor said Tuesday.
Yuriko Koike revealed that the COVID-19 situation in Japan’s capital is continuing to improve while her sights remain set on a July 23 start date.
“I think the situation is much better than before,” Koike told Reuters. “We will do our best to prevent coronavirus infections here in Japan and also to welcome the athletes from all over the world.”
It’s a significant change in tone from last month, in which Koike said that Tokyo could declare a state of emergency if COVID-19 numbers worsened — thus completely scrapping this edition of the Summer Olympics.
However, coronavirus cases have decreased from over 400 a day in the area to as low as 187 on Tuesday, per Reuters.
The legitimacy of the Summer Games still very much hinges on the viability of an effective vaccine that can be readily available for athletes.
Tokyo’s Olympic village is expected to host an estimated 11,000 athletes in close quarters, meaning anything less than a vaccine would provide a dangerous environment for the Games’ participants.
For that reason alone, there has been plenty of pessimism surrounding the Olympics in recent months.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” Kentaro Iwata, a Japanese professor of infectious disease, said in April (h/t Al Jazeera). “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions… controlling COVID-19 in Japan, and controlling COVID-19 everywhere.”
While coronavirus numbers have dipped in numerous countries around the world, Japan recently experienced a spike in early-August. Meanwhile, the United States — which usually sends the most athletes to the Olympics — has not had under 30,000 daily positive COVID-19 cases since June 22.