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Experts question viability of 2021 Olympics without coronavirus vaccine

Medical experts are pessimistic about the 2021 Olympics, and organizing committee chief says second postponement would be impossible.

The Olympic Games may have already been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the future of the Tokyo Olympiad is still far from certain.

“Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year,” Yoshitake Yokokura, President of the Japanese Medical Association, said Tuesday, “I’m not saying at this point that they shouldn’t be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan … it’s a worldwide issue.”

Kentaro Iwata, a professor specializing in infectious diseases, had already sounded a warning last week. “To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” Iwata said in The Guardian. “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions; controlling COVID-19 in Japan, and controlling COVID-19 everywhere.”

Japan has managed to keep a reasonable leash on the coronavirus so far, with under 14,000 total cases and 400 deaths. Daily confirmed cases are currently below 100 per day. However, with the pandemic raging on across the rest of the world, there is no global exit point in sight.

Iwata cited a stripped back format for the Games as a potential middle ground that could allow the event to take place. A ‘behind closed doors’ format for the 2020 Tour de France is also being considered by French ministers.

“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” Iwata said.

If the 2021 Games can’t take place, then the Olympics will not return until the next cycle.

“If the corona pandemic is not under control in 2021, the Olympics will be canceled,” Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo organizing committee, told Japanese newspaper Nikkan. “After all, a second postponement is not socially and financially feasible. If the pandemic is still raging, we will have to cancel the Games. A second delay is impossible. That is not socially and financially feasible.”

Wielerflits reports that the postponement of the Games to 2021 will already have cost organizers between three billion — six billion USD.