Sept. 27, 2020
Three-time Olympian Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan has labeled as “quite irresponsible and regrettable” statements made by International Olympic Commitee vice president John Coates of Australia that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be held with or without COVID-19.
The 79-year-old elder statesman of equestrian sport who competed in London in 2012 at the age of 70 commented to Kyodo news agency on the remarks by the IOC Coordination Commission chair.
Hiroshi has not competed in an international competition since the 2012 Games but is seeking a start on Japan’s team at the Olympics delayed by a year to next July as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“John Coates, the vice president of the International Olympic Committee, said in a media report on September 7 that ‘the games will start as planned on July 23 with or without COVID’,” Hiroshi told Kyodo.
“As this is the second such remark, following one made on July 29, it can be assumed that Mr. Coates is serious about forging ahead with the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
“There will be more than 100,000 athletes, press, and other related personnel flying into Tokyo from all over the world for the event.
“If any of them feel that it is unsafe to come to Tokyo, they have the option of staying home.
“This is not true for the Japanese people–we do not have such an option.
“Visitors will be coming regardless of how we feel.
“According to a survey done by Kyodo in July, only one in four Japanese welcome the idea of hosting the Olympics next year.
“For the vice president of the International Olympic Committee to make such a statement without taking into consideration the Japanese people’s sentiments, is quite irresponsible and regrettable.”
He said that his previous Olympic appearances–in Tokyo as a jumper rider in 1964, at the 2008 Beijing Games as well as London 2012–had been “peaceful and joyful” because of interaction between athletes, volunteers and spectators.
He suggested countermeasures, which could limit spectators and impact the Opening Ceremony, may reduce the appeal of the Games.