The future of the Tokyo Olympics is in question after Japan declared a state of emergency due to increasing COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday, over 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Japan with 2,447 in Tokyo, both record highs for the country.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the declaration, saying it will last at least a month.
“I am confident we can overcome this,” Suga told reporters. “But I must ask all of you to endure a restricted life for a while longer.”
The Olympics were originally scheduled for 2020 and have already been postponed once. And they are still officially scheduled to begin in July 2021.
But in the wake of the declaration, Japan is removing the public displays of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic torches for the next month. It’s unclear whether the Olympics could take place with emergency declarations in place, but the event is set to gather around 15,000 athletes as well as thousands of coaches, judges and media.
An International Olympic Committee spokesperson told MarketWatch on Friday that the games are still on schedule, despite recent events in Japan.
“The IOC has full confidence in the Japanese authorities and the measures they are taking. Together with our Japanese partners, we continue to be fully concentrated and committed to the safe and successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer.”
The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was only the fourth time since 1896 that the Olympics did not happen as scheduled. The other occasions were during World Wars in 1916, 1940 and 1944. The 2021 Olympics in Tokyo will still be branded “Tokyo 2020,” the IOC has told MarketWatch.
IOC members recently said that if the Olympics couldn’t be held as scheduled, they would be canceled.
According to a study from the University of Oxford, The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are the most expensive Summer Games in history.
The IOC has urged athletes who plan on competing in the Olympics to get vaccinated before the games begin, however the committee stopped short of making it an outright requirement. Committee President Thomas Bach has said that vaccines would be a “free decision” for those involved in the Olympics.
Some athletes including three-time Paralympian Kaitlyn Verfuerth are skeptical that the games will happen at all.
“I feel very unsure about it happening in 2021,” Verfuerth told MarketWatch in 2020. “I just don’t see how we can all be together.”