Japanese government officials have dismissed reports that suggests the Tokyo Olympics are unlikely to go ahead this year. “Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the government of Japan has privately concluded that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will have to be cancelled,” a statement from the Japanese government said, likely referring to an article from The Times (in which ‘an unnamed senior official’ is quoted as saying: “No one wants to be the first to say so, but the consensus is that it’s too difficult. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”).
The Japanese government has insisted that these rumours are ‘categorically untrue’.
Japanese citizens have little confidence in Covid-19 vaccinations
However, it seems that a question mark does still hover over holding the Olympics this year, as Covid-19 cases continue to climb around the world, and the probability of Japan carrying out the vaccinations of the country’s 127 million residents in ample time is concerning, to say the least. That's not to say that it can't be done, but one of the biggest hurdles for the country looks to be public co-operation: a Lancet study published in September 2020 detailed that only 25 per cent of those Japanese respondents asked said that they agree on vaccine safety, importance and effectiveness, ranking Japan among the lowest of the report’s 149 countries in terms of vaccine confidence.
What’s more, reports abound that 80 per cent of the Japanese public do not think that the Games should go ahead this year; and sports marketer Robert Maes, who has worked with several previous Olympic Committees and global sponsors, noted: “There is also total silence here from all the sponsors. No activation, no servicing, because if they come out to be visible in support, they might get a huge backlash if it all goes wrong in July.”
However, Thomas Bach, Chairman of the International Olympic Committee, also dismissed the growing speculation about cancellation. Talking to Kyodo news agency, he said: “We have at this moment no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo. This is why there is no plan B, and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful.”
It’s time to address the cover needs of prospective travellers
Of course, if Japan does insist on holding the Tokyo Olympics this year, it will need to carefully consider who it will open it’s borders to and how it will regulate it's health screening as global vaccination distribution continues on an uneven playing field. Will health passports showing proof of Covid vaccination become part of the Games' initiative?
In all this uncertainty, one thing is for certain, international travellers planning to visit Tokyo for the Olympics games this year will need comprehensive and flexible cancellation cover, including cancel for any reason cover and Covid-19-related medical cover, if their insurers are willing to provide it for them.