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Pledge for ‘safe and secure’ 2021 Tokyo Games as fight to control pandemic continues

The Japanese prime minister has reiterated the country’s commitment to host the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games, while the host nation works to control rising numbers of Covid cases.

Yoshihide Suga made the pledge in his new year message, stating that the country is working to achieve a “safe and secure” Games.

Coronavirus figures for Japan are far lower than in a number of other countries. While the UK has the fifth highest number of total cases in the world at +2,713,000 and more than 75,400 deaths, Japan is 42nd with +243,000 and around 3,600 deaths. Japan’s population is approximately twice that of the UK.

But cases are rising and concerns have been raised over the situation in the host city of Tokyo; Mr Suga is expected to announce on Thursday (7 January) whether a state of emergency will be declared in parts of the capital.

In his 1 January address, Mr Suga said the government of Japan will “first and foremost, make all-out efforts to prevent the further spread of infections”.

He added that the cabinet has made “a firm vow to protect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens and we will continue to do everything in our power to prevent the spread of infections and move towards economic recovery”.

Mr Suga said: “The coronavirus crisis has reminded us of the need for global solidarity. Japan will aim to realise a ‘united world’ and lead the creation of the post-coronavirus order, placing importance on multilateralism.

“On top of that, this summer we will hold the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which symbolise the unity of the world. We will advance our preparations thoroughly so as to achieve Games that are safe and secure.”

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach echoed Mr Suga’s sentiments about the rescheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are scheduled for 23 July to 8 August and 24 August to 5 September respectively.

Mr Bach said the Tokyo Games and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, due to be held next February, “will be the light at the end of the tunnel”.

“Tokyo is still the best prepared Olympic city ever,” said Mr Bach in his new year message.

“We can only thank our Japanese partners and friends for their great commitment and their determination, which is absolutely in line with our commitment and our determination to organise these Games in a safe and secure way for all the participants and to make these Olympic Games fit for the post-coronavirus world.

“We all will live unforgettable Games. These Olympic Games will be the light at the end of the tunnel. They will be a celebration of solidarity, of unity of humankind in all our diversity and of resilience.”

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International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons voiced his support that those involved “will pull this off”.

“My message to all is to focus on what you can really do and what you can achieve and on the feasible deliverables in what can be a very difficult but at the same time an incredible year, because we will pull this off,” he said.

“We will organise an incredible Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. But this will require the best of us. This will require a lot of hard work.

“I think this is how the Tokyo 2020 Games will be remembered for generations to come.

“The Tokyo Games will be different than previous editions. That doesn’t mean they will be worse. It’s the other way around because of what it will mean at the end of the day. So, I think it will be remembered forever in the history books—not only in the history books of sport — but in the history books of humanity.”

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