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Decision agreed with IOC, sports bodies to hold Olympics as planned - Tokyo 2020

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SHOWS: TOKYO, JAPAN (MARCH 18, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

1. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TOKYO 2020 CEO, TOSHIRO MUTO, SAYING:

"Yesterday, we spoke to the IOC committee (IOC Executive Board) and we confirmed that we will have the Olympics and Paralympics as planned. That decision has been provided to and agreed upon with all international federations."

2. WHITE FLASH

3. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TOKYO 2020 CEO, TOSHIRO MUTO, SAYING:

"As you know, since World War Two, the torch relay has become the biggest event before the Olympics. That is why we would like, somehow, to be able to have the torch relay. It is very important for us to have the torch relay. Also, for the Japanese citizens, they will be able to feel the Olympics close by and then they can feel it outside of Tokyo. It is an opportunity to provide this to the citizens, which is why we feel it is very important."

4. WHITE FLASH

5. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TOKYO 2020 CEO, TOSHIRO MUTO, SAYING:

"From an operational perspective, it was yesterday when we decided that we felt a Japanese person was necessary to undertake this role, during the three-party meeting yesterday (with the International Olympic Committee and Hellenic Olympic Committee). So, it has been one day (since decision taken)."

6. WHITE FLASH

7. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TOKYO 2020 CEO, TOSHIRO MUTO, SAYING:

"We also needed to confirm that her (Naoko Imoto's) schedule had availability and she mentioned that she was available. She had a very positive reaction but all this happened just two or three hours ago."

8. WHITE FLASH

9. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TOKYO 2020 CEO, TOSHIRO MUTO, SAYING:

"We believe it was a great decision, given the limited time of one day."

STORY: Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto claimed on Wednesday (March 18) that organisers and the International Olympic Committee, with approval from international federations, had "confirmed" that the Olympics would go ahead as planned, starting July 24.

His comments come amid mounting concerns about whether the Games can proceed as planned, with the rapidly spreading virus panicking financial markets and bringing business and social activity around the world to a standstill. Many sports events have been cancelled or postponed.

However, Tokyo 2020 organisers have consistently maintained that the Olympics is going ahead as planned and the Olympic flame is due to arrive in Japan on Friday.

Tokyo 2020 organisers also announced late on Wednesday that Naoko Imoto will receive the Olympic flame during the scaled back handover ceremony in Athens on Thursday (March 19), but just hours earlier the former Olympian didn't know that herself.

Due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak and travel restrictions placed on flying in and out of Europe, Tokyo 2020 announced on Tuesday they would not be sending a delegation to Athens to receive the Olympic flame.

Instead, Muto announced that Imoto, who was part of the Japanese team that came fourth in the 800 metres freestyle relay at the 1996 Atlanta Games, would take the flame.

"It was yesterday when we decided that we felt a Japanese person was necessary to undertake this role, during the three-party meeting. So, it has been one day (since the decision was taken)," Muto told a briefing in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Still, it remained a challenge for organisers to find a suitable Japanese person, already living in Greece and so not subject to travel restrictions, at short notice.

Fortunately for them, Imoto currently works in Greece for UNICEF and, once she had checked her schedule, the 43-year-old accepted the honour.

Imoto had not been involved in original plans for the handover ceremony.

"We also needed to confirm that her schedule had availability and she mentioned that she was available," said Muto.

"She had a very positive reaction but all this happened just two or three hours ago.

"We believe it was a great decision, given the limited time of one day."

(Production: Jack Tarrant)

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