A Florida official said Monday the state would be happy if the Olympic Games in Tokyo were relocated to the United States after reports Japan might scrap the sporting event due to the pandemic.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made the announcement in a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), encouraging them to consider moving the Olympics from Tokyo to the American Sunshine State.
“Today, I am writing to encourage you to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida,” Patronis wrote.
Patronis issued the letter following recent speculations the island country might need to cancel the Games out of concerns for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
“With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, 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,” he wrote.
However, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he is sticking to his government’s commitment to host the event, with officials last week dismissing a British media report that Tokyo had abandoned the hope of hosting the Games this year.
Patronis noted in the letter that Florida had about 131 million tourists in 2019, with hotel capacity and well-maintained transportation networks to accommodate the Games.
“Florida has 20 commercial airports, 31 urban transit systems, 12 major universities that have existing sporting facilities—and we have world-renowned health care facilities in each of our regions,” he wrote. “I think most importantly, however, we have a state with leaders who are willing to get this done.”
He also boasted that Florida has been successful in allowing sporting events to continue during the pandemic while most other U.S. states had their events shut down, adding that international tourist destinations like Disney parks have also been operating safely in the state.
IOC executive board members said they found the troubled Games in a similar situation in March last year when it was forced to postpone the sporting event by 12 months as the CCP virus pandemic shut down sports worldwide.
The IOC will meet again on Wednesday, less than six months before the event is due to start, to tackle questions over COVID-19 vaccination of athletes, international visitors, and the attendance of spectators, and safety regulations among other matters. Any talk of scrapping the event altogether is unlikely, according to reports.
“Six months ahead of the Games, the entire Olympic movement is looking forward to the opening ceremony on July 23,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a message to organizers over the weekend on Jan. 23.
Much of Japan is now under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections and should the Games go ahead, they will no doubt be completely different from past editions. The World Health Organization said on Monday it is providing risk management advice to the IOC and Japanese authorities over Tokyo.
Florida, the third most populated state in the United States currently has the fourth-highest death toll from the CCP virus nationwide. California, the most populous state which had one of the harshest lockdown and restrictions to fight the pandemic has the second-highest death toll, after New York.
If the IOC moves the Games to Florida, it would be the 10th time the United States hosts the Olympic Games and the first time it will be held in the Sunshine State.
Reuters contributed to this report.