The Citizen (Gauteng)

Coe still sees a silver lining


Tokyo – World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe (above) said yesterday he believes the coronaviru­s-postponed Tokyo Olympics can be “a beacon of hope and optimism”, despite infections surging in Japan and other countries.

A virus state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of Japan was extended on Friday, less than three months before the Games are due to begin.

The emergency measures come as Olympic organisers struggle to win over a sceptical Japanese public, who fear the Games could spread infections despite a ban on overseas fans and possibly domestic spectators too.

But Coe, speaking at an athletics test event held behind closed doors at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, said he believes the Games can “have a profound impact” on the world and moved to reassure the Japanese public that “we take those concerns very, very seriously”.

“I think that it will also act as a beacon of hope and optimism in a world that I hope is soon moving back to some type of normality,” he told reporters.

“I think that these Games will leave a strong, lasting legacy, not just for Japan but at a time when the world is coming to terms with some pretty difficult and harrowing months.”

Japan’s Covid-19 outbreak remains much smaller than in many countries, with just over 10 500 deaths.

But its vaccine roll-out is moving slowly and some areas have seen record cases and more infectious variants.

More than 10 000 athletes from 200 countries and regions are set to travel to Tokyo for the Games, with a decision on how many domestic fans – if any – can attend, to be taken in June.

More than 30 000 people have signed an online petition titled “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives”, launched last Wednesday by a lawyer and former Tokyo gubernator­ial candidate.

A group of around 100 people staged a protest outside yesterday’s test event, which featured 420 athletes, including nine from overseas but Olympic organisers insist the Games can still be held safely. –

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