A woman in a face mask walks past a display showing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games logo in Tokyo on March 24, 2020. (AFP-Yonhap)
Amid speculation that Tokyo may pass on the Summer Olympics due to a recent surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, Florida has proposed relocating the Games from Japan to the Sunshine State.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday, offering the state as a replacement host.
In his letter to the IOC, Patronis cited “recent media reports” about leaders in Japan privately having concluded that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place.
Patronis added that there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida to meet with statewide and local officials on holding the Olympics in the Sunshine State.
“The State of Florida has successfully allowed sports to take place during the pandemic. When most states shut down their sporting events, the city of Jacksonville hosted the Ultimate Fighting Championship (the UFC) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) setup the ‘bubble’ to hold games in Orlando,” Patronis said.
Patronis also posted an article from The Japan Times on his Twitter account, referring to a survey result that 70 percent of Japanese want Tokyo Games to be canceled or delayed.
Tokyo, with a population of about 38 million, has seen some 95,000 confirmed cases, according the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s COVID-19 information website. Florida, which has a population of around 21 million, has registered over 1.6 million cases, according to the state government’s tally.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked Tuesday if the idea of Florida hosting the Olympics this summer would be supported by the Biden administration.
“I don’t know the entire process of the Olympics, but I would certainly send you to the US Olympic Committee and the International Olympics Committee first on what their assessment of that offer is and certainly, of course, what their assessment is of Japan’s preparedness for the Olympics,” she said.
The IOC has not made an official comment on Florida’s proposal. Instead, the IOC said Tuesday that President Thomas Bach talked with the National Olympic Committees over the phone on Friday “as the Olympic Movement enters the final stretch in the preparations for the postponed Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
Mentioning that the IOC and its partners have been developing a toolbox of COVID-19 countermeasures, the Olympic body said it is continuing to consult with the World Health Organization to make every effort towards staging safe and secure Games.
The Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled to take place during the summer of 2020, was pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping every part of the world. The Games are now slated to run from July 23 through August 8.
By Kan Hyeong-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org