The International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee have dismissed renewed speculation that the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games are set to be cancelled.
A report in the Times claimed the Japanese government has “privately concluded” that the Olympics and Paralympics will have to be called off due to rising coronavirus rates.
The IOC issued a statement in which it referenced the response of the Japanese government in describing the report as “categorically untrue”, adding: “The IOC is fully concentrated on and committed to the successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this year.”
The IPC went further, maintaining that a series of counter-measures, including the roll-out of vaccines, have put it in a much stronger position than 10 months ago to stage a successful Games.
The report comes amid mounting uncertainty over the Games, which are due to begin on July 23, with coronavirus rates growing worldwide and much of the wider Tokyo region having been plunged into a State of Emergency earlier this month.
A growing number of figures, including the former London 2012 chief executive Keith Mills, have expressed doubts over whether the Games will take place, while athletes are calling for clarity.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland issued a statement saying they are still "ensuring that our athletes are prepared" for the Games to take place this summer.
"The Olympic Federation of Ireland has also been very clear on this subject in recent weeks. We remain fully of the view, based on regular updates from the Tokyo organisers, that the Games will go ahead in July this year. We do feel that the Games will be very different, with stringent countermeasures in place to safeguard athletes," the body said in a statement this evening.
"Our focus remains on ensuring that our athletes are prepared and ready for this different type of games experience, accounting for the numerous Covid-19 countermeasures, along with a vaccination programmes.
"Our intention is to circulate the most accurate and up to date news as it comes to us and to detail how that impacts the preparations of Team Ireland’s athletes and support staff. To this end we will be scheduling further briefings in our series of Tokyo Ready updates for the media in coming weeks."
The statement by the Japanese government read: “Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. This is categorically untrue.
“We will be implementing all possible countermeasures against COVID-19 and will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer.”
The IPC was more bullish, describing the advances in preparations since the Games were initially delayed last year, and re-stating its commitment to issuing its ‘Playbooks’ – detailing its specific hosting plans – to major stakeholders early next month.
The IPC said: “Compared to March 2020, we now know much more about how the COVID-19 virus behaves, much more about how to organise safe sport events during a pandemic and are encouraged by the international roll-out of several vaccines.
“By the time of the Games this summer, we are optimistic that daily case numbers will be much lower than during these dark winter months.
“We are also confident that the extensive testing programme to be implemented before, during and after the Games – one of several measures that will be taken targeting Games stakeholders – will help minimise the risk of virus transmission.
“Finally, each sport event that has taken place globally since the outbreak of the virus has provided us all with valuable learning experiences which are helping to continually shape our plans for Tokyo.
“There is no doubt the Tokyo 2020 Games will be very different to any previous Games and that this summer’s event looks a long way off right now.
“However, we believe that with the robust measures and plans we have in place, the Games can and will go ahead safely.”