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Olympic boss rejects claims Tokyo set to dump Games, threaten SEQ bid

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Australian Olympic veteran John Coates has slammed misleading reports that the Tokyo Games will not be held this year and that the Japanese capital may instead take Queensland’s hopeful place in 2032.

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Newspaper reports overseas quoted an unnamed Japanese government official conceding that the Tokyo games would have to be delayed again due to COVID-19, potentially to the next available slot in 2032.

Southeast Queensland is one of several potential bidders for that 2032 slot, subject to a major infrastructure funding deal being reached between three levels of government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today acknowledged the “rumours floating around” about the Tokyo Games, and said while it would be disappointing for the Japanese stakeholders to have to delay the event he would understand if it was necessary. He did not comment on the chances of Queensland being knocked out of contention for 2032.

However, Coates rejected the rumours outright. He has had regular and recent contact with the stakeholders, including yesterday, and said they were determined to push ahead with the Tokyo games this year in some form.

“They’re deadset going ahead,” Coates told InQueensland this morning.

Coates blamed overseas interests, including uninformed former Olympic officials, of spreading misinformation about the Tokyo games and undermining public support for the event in Japan.

He said there were well-advanced and thorough plans for international athletes to visit Japan, with appropriate COVID-19 measures, and the only unknown at this stage was the safe venue capacity. That would only effect spectator numbers.

“All of the plans are absolutely proceeding for full athlete participation and the organising committee are issuing the first of what they call their playbooks right now,” Coates said.

The misinformation campaign comes despite the Japanese Prime Minister and International Olympic Committee chief this week reaffirming their commitment to the Tokyo games going ahead in July.

Coates is an influential supporter of the southeast Queensland bid for the 2032 games and said it was still an active proposal for the International Olympic Committee.

“We’re in continuing dialogue with them just as the other cities are in continuous dialogue,” Coates said.

Late last year, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk sought more information from the IOC on how games could be run more efficiently, and at less expense to the hosts. Her office today said, “talks are progressing about Queensland’s potential candidacy for 2032”.

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