The Japanese government said on Friday that there was no talk of cancelling or delaying the Summer Olympics to be held in 2021 after a media report of a looming cancellation.
The Times reported Japan's government had privately reached the conclusion that the Tokyo Olympics would have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and that the focus was now on securing the Games in the next available year, 2032.
"No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it's too difficult," a government source told The Times. "Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."
BMX, skateboarding and 3x3 basketball - how the Olympics are moving with the time
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike responded to the report by insisting the plan was still to go ahead with the Games as scheduled from July 23 to August 8, while the International Olympic Committee backed a statement from the Japanese government that said the claims were "categorically untrue".
- Tokyo to spend $900 million on coronavirus measures
- Team GB chief “100% confident” Tokyo 2020 will happen this year
"Some news reports circulating today are claiming that the Government of Japan has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. This is categorically untrue," read the statement.
"At an IOC Executive Board meeting in July last year, it was agreed that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be held on July 23 this year, and the programme and venues for the Games were rescheduled accordingly. All parties involved are working together to prepare for a successful Games this summer.
"We will be implementing all possible countermeasures against Covid-19 and will continue to work closely with the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in our preparations for holding a safe and secure Games this summer."
The Olympic Games' organising committee also denied the report, saying in a statement that its partners including the government and the IOC were "fully focused" on hosting the event as planned.
"It is very disappointing to see that The Times is developing such a tabloid-like story with an untrustworthy source," a source from the organising committee told Reuters. "The national government is fully committed to delivering a safe and secure Games, and we are always encouraged by their dedications."
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said there is "an absolute, cast iron determination" to deliver the Tokyo Olympics
"The government in Japan, the organising committee, the municipality and then the other key stakeholders - the international federations and particularly the athletes - are all unified in their determination to try to deliver a Games that is safe and secure," Coe, a double Olympic gold medallist, told Reuters in an interview. "It's a challenge but it's the challenge that at this very moment all the key players are actually up for an that's why I have a confidence, with the insights as an international Federation - the number one Olympic sport – can bring to bear on that.”
The Games were postponed from the summer of 2020 last March following the start of the pandemic. But Coe said two big differences almost a year on left him confident they would go ahead as scheduled from July 23.
"Firstly, there is the vaccine and we were a long way away from even thinking about that at this stage last year," he said. "It is being rolled out and over the next few months it will increase in its availability.
"I know that at this stage (last year) athletes were beginning to find it really difficult to maintain their training regimes and that competitions were beginning to slide off the radar screen. Now they are having greater access both to training and competitions - we've already had competitions indoors in athletics this season," he said.
"So, at this moment, there is an absolute cast-iron determination to deliver the Games but to deliver them in a safe and secure environment."
The report from the Times cited an opinion poll that showed 80 per cent of the Japanese population are against the Games taking place this year. There is widespread fear that an influx of athletes could cause cases of Covid-19 to rocket.
Japan was widely praised for its handling of the first wave of coronavirus, but it is currently battling with rising case numbers.
Sir Keith Mills, deputy chair of the London 2012 organising committee, said earlier this week that Games organisers should be "making plans for a cancellation."
Paris is due to host the 2024 Games while Los Angeles is slated for 2028.
With additional reporting from Reuters
Biles made us feel normal to discuss our mental health - the heartwarming moments of Tokyo 2020
How Daley provided Team GB’s feel-good moment in Tokyo - and proved the old guard are not done yet