When I think of the greatest female athlete of all time, names like Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, Cathy Freeman and Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee come to mind.
Tokyo 2020 organisers said on Friday they were moving ahead with preparations to hold a “safe and secure” Games, despite US President Donald Trump’s call to delay the event for a year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan has sought to squash speculation the Games, which has cost them at least $12 billion in preparations and attracted more than $3 billion in domestic sponsorships, could be cancelled or postponed as the number of cases grows worldwide, including in Japan.
“The Tokyo 2020 organising committee wants to move ahead with preparations for a safe and secure Games this July,” the organisers told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
It added to that end, they were monitoring the coronavirus pandemic together with the international Olympic and Paralympic bodies, receiving advice from the World Health Organisation, and coordinating with the government and the Tokyo authorities.
The outbreak has already crippled global travel and hit Olympic qualifiers and other sports events. Japan has shuttered schools. Public health officials have discouraged large gatherings to curtail the spread of the highly contagious disease, and major soccer tournaments, National Basketball Association (NBA) games and other sports have been halted.
“I just can’t see having no people there,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
“Maybe they postpone it for a year … if that’s possible,” he said, adding he would not officially make that recommendation to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who could make his own decision.
“I like that better than I like having empty stadiums all over the place. I think if you cancel it, make it a year later that’s a better alternative than doing it with no crowd,” Trump said.
An Olympic organising committee board member said earlier this week any decision to delay the Summer Games would need to be made before May.
On Thursday, the prelude to the games got underway with the lighting of the Olympic Torch in a scaled-down ceremony behind closed doors.
The United States is one of the biggest participants in the Games, which are scheduled to begin in July and expected to be a major economic boost for Japan.