Tokyo Olympics team has ‘cast-iron will’ for 2021 event, says Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president, believes the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have a “cast-iron will” to stage next year’s event and is highly confident they will go ahead.

Japan had a record daily number of coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 555 people in hospital with serious symptoms, prompting health experts to urge people not to travel in the run-up to the new year holidays.

Lord Coe, who has visited the country twice recently, says every indication he is getting from organisers is that the “simplified” Games will take place as planned in a post-vaccine world.

“I was very comforted that there’s just a real cast-iron will to deliver these Games,” he said. “There will probably be adaptations and changes but they are absolutely determined to stage these Games so I have a pretty high level of confidence we will be there.”

World Athletics announced on Wednesday that the world indoor championships, scheduled to take place in China in March, would become the first major Covid-19 casualty of 2021. However, Coe is confident things will be very different next summer. “Nothing is certain in this world but I think we are working on a much firmer proposition that there will be a Games next year,” he said.

Coe offered a tentative backing to the new team at UK Athletics despite growing reports of staff unrest – saying they should be given time to turn things around.

Earlier this week senior figures in the sport sent the UK Athletics board a letter criticising the chief executive, Joanna Coates, and her leadership team including the chairman, Nic Coward. Coe said he wished Coates and her new head coach Christian Malcolm well.

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“We’ve got a really powerful cohort of young athletes coming through and that’s got to be good commercially,” he said. “That’s got to be good box office for us. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Christian to instil the coaching and create a really good environment in the team.

“I don’t think Jo and Nic have had the easiest deck of cards that they’ve inherited and that’s tough for them. They’ve had to confront some pretty big financial challenges as well. But you do have to be patient in these situations. And I do hope the sport gives them the opportunity to find their feet and pull the knitting together.”