The commencement of the beleaguered Tokyo Olympics as planned this July could come down to support from the U.S and its new president, a Tokyo Organising Committee member, Haruyuki Takahashi, has said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organisers have been increasingly bullish in recent weeks about the prospect of holding the postponed Games.
This is in spite of dwindling public support and rising coronavirus cases.
However, Takahashi thinks the Olympics’ future could depend on the support of U.S. President Joe Biden.
“Biden is dealing with a tough situation with the coronavirus,” Takahashi said on Wednesday. “But if he makes a positive statement about the Olympics going ahead, we’d gain strong momentum.”
“It’s up to the U.S. I hate to say it, but (IOC President) Thomas Bach and the IOC are not the ones who are able to make the decision about the Games,” he added. “They don’t have that level of leadership.”
Biden has not spoken publicly about the Olympics since becoming president last week.
The U.S brings the largest contingent of athletes to any Olympics and also provides the IOC with its most lucrative television deal.
In response to Takahashi’s comments, the IOC said “his comments are obsolete.”
“It is regrettable that Takahashi does not know the facts,” said the IOC statement.
“First: It is USOPC that decides about the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. Second: USOPC has never left a doubt about their participation.”
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee wrote on Twitter last week that they had not received any information suggesting the Games would not happen as planned.
Takahashi, a former executive at the advertising agency Dentsu Inc, was paid 8.2 million dollars by the committee that spearheaded Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Games, according to financial records reviewed by Reuters.
He has acknowledged receiving the payment, but he has also denied any impropriety.
After his involvement in Tokyo’s successful campaign, Takahashi was named to the board of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee.