The postponed Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead next year “with or without Covid”, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee says.
John Coates confirmed to news agency AFP that the Olympics would start on 23 July next year, calling them the “Games that conquered Covid”.
They were originally scheduled to start in July 2020, but were postponed due to Covid-19 fears.
The IOC had earlier said they would not delay the Games beyond 2021.
“The Games were going to be their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” Mr Coates told AFP, referring to 2011 catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
“Now very much these will be the Games that conquered Covid, the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In July, Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto said it was possible that the Games be held to a “limited” audience, but said they wanted to avoid the possibility of having no spectators at all.
Instead, he added that the Games could potentially “simplify” its opening and closing ceremonies, as well as reduce the number of staff and delegations from each country.
More than 11,000 athletes from around 200 countries were scheduled to take part in the 2020 Games. It is not clear how travel restrictions might impact their participation as Japan’s borders are currently largely closed to foreign visitors.
Mr Muto also said a vaccine was not a prerequisite for the Games, though health experts had cast doubt over whether the Games could be held without a vaccine.
“If a vaccine is ready, that will be a benefit, but we’re not saying we can’t hold the event without it – it’s not a precondition,” he said.
In April, Games chief Yoshiro Mori said the Tokyo Games would have to be cancelled if there were not held in 2021.
Explaining this decision, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “You cannot forever employ 3,000 to 5,000 people in an organising committee. You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations.”
Before the pandemic, the Games had only ever been cancelled because of war, but never postponed.