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Yes, the Olympics still might be canceled

July 20, 2021, 3:34 PM UTC

Judging by the ads on television and growing number of feature stories about gymnasts, swimmers, and track stars, it might seem that the 2020 Olympics are a fait accompli. But there’s still a chance the Games could be canceled.

The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee refused to rule out a last-minute cancellation of the XXXII Olympiad as concerns about the pandemic continue to grow and the number of athletes testing positive for COVID-19 increases.

“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” said Toshiro Muto, when asked at a news conference if the Games still could be canceled. “We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”

The deliberately cautious tone comes just days before the opening ceremony is scheduled to take place. The Olympics officially begin Friday, July 23, at 6:55 a.m. ET. (The ceremony will be aired again in primetime at 7:30 p.m. ET as well on NBC.) A qualifying game in the men’s soccer tournament will take place on Thursday, though.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in Tokyo and are such a public health concern that organizers decided to hold the Games without spectators. The number of infections among athletes and other people accredited for the Olympics is starting to climb as well, with more than 70 testing positive so far, including one athlete who is staying at the Olympic Village. Those cases come despite strict quarantine and testing protocols.

The Olympics were originally scheduled for last year, but they were postponed because of COVID. Many felt they should be canceled altogether, but the International Olympic Committee has defended the decision to reschedule for this year.

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