IOC's Dick Pound says Tokyo Olympics to move ahead despite pandemic concerns
'Postponement is off the table; it's either July 23rd or not at all,' says Pound
International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound of Canada says the Tokyo Olympics are set to move ahead as scheduled, even after IOC president Thomas Bach cancelled his trip to Japan due to surging COVID-19 cases.
Bach planned to meet the torch relay in Hiroshima before travelling to Tokyo, but his trip was pushed back after the country's state of emergency was extended until May 31. On Tuesday, the torch relay was pulled off the streets of Hiroshima and the governor said a planned ceremony in the city is still expected to take place next week.
Despite the postponement and resulting concern, Pound told CBC's Power & Politics the Games remain on schedule to begin July 23, just over 10 weeks away.
"As of today, everything we know and everything that we're following with both Japan and public health authorities and the Olympic movement, we are go for July 23rd," Pound said.
"Perhaps they thought it was not a good signal to have somebody coming in from the outside in the middle of a self-declared crisis at this point," Pound said.
Olympic organizers and the IOC have both stated that the Olympics will be able to be held safely, something Pound reaffirmed amid growing calls for the event to be called off.
"Everything is in place for a rival ongoing testing creation of the bubble, and so forth, to the point where everything is quite satisfied," Pound said. "The risks are okay; [athletes] have confidence in being able to go there."
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There has still been no official decision on whether domestic spectators will be permitted to attend the upcoming Olympics, but Pound expects that call to be made in the next month.
While people in Japan have voiced strong opinions against holding the games as scheduled, or cancelling them outright, Pound believes these opinions stem from a generalized fear and that organizing authorities have better access to factual information on the situation.
"While it's an opinion and may be strongly held, it's not necessarily a fact-based opinion," Pound said. "So, I would put my confidence on the authorities who are following this and who have planned for whatever is necessary to make the influx of Olympic athletes, team members healthy, rather than a generalized fear about contamination.
"Postponement is off the table; it's either July 23rd or not at all."
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Gymnastics Canada recently made the decision to not send a team to a Olympic qualifier in June as a result of COVID-19 concerns.
The 2021 Senior Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro was Canada's last opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in men's artistic, women's artistic and rhythmic gymnastics.
"What they're concerned about is going to a place like, say, Brazil, where the pandemic is just enormous, and they're saying, look, it's just not worth the risk to go there, and if that means we can't qualify, that means we can't qualify," Pound said.
Pound expects there to be a different dynamic at the qualifying events closer to the games as the situation improves.
"By then, there will be more vaccinations performed, there will be more confidence on the part of the Japanese that they can handle the influx."
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