Tokyo Olympics 2021: NZOC boss Kereyn Smith admits to Games 'speed wobbles' amid speculation

NZ Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith concedes recent speculation over the Tokyo Olympics has made her job more difficult, but she remains tunnel-visioned on the task of preparing Kiwi athletes.

Reports out of Japan suggest the Government has privately called for the Games to be cancelled, after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced their postponement from July/August last year.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the International Olympic Committee insist the event will continue as planned, despite a public backlash. Recent polls suggest 80 percent of Japanese people think the Olympics should or will be called off, as coronavirus cases surge.

"We know that the Japanese people, at this point in time, are feeling anxious about the Games," Smith tells The AM Show.

"I think that's compounded by the fact they're about to embark on quite a significant vaccine programme that will start in mid-February. They have about a 170 million doses of vaccine to be administered in their country.

"Until such time that they feel they have more surety around the health and safety of their own people, there is anxiety.

"There's obviously a lot of cost to the Games and by deferring the Games for 12 months, that's a massive, massive cost that they've already incurred, so you can imagine the speed wobbles a little bit.

"But there seems to be a sense of confidence that, by July, things will be better, and they'll be ready to welcome the world and people will be in a different state."

Last week, the NZOC sought to reassure athletes that the Games were on track and they should continue their preparations accordingly.

But Smith admits the uncertainty has made that "challenging".

"The more speculation and the more distractions there are... it's pretty unhelpful for us in terms of doing our jobs," she says. "From day to day, our job has been made immensely challenging by all the obstacles being put in front of, not only the athletes, but ourselves.

"We've got a huge job of work to be done to ensure out athletes are ready to compete and perform in July this year, in the event the Games take place. If they don't take place, that's a whole other issue and that will be hugely unfortunate, but that's not the plan right now.

"We continue to be advised and guided on the Games going ahead by official authorities, and while there are Games, and athletes with dreams and ambitions of competing there, our job is to help them prepare. In this complex and challenging environment, that's a pretty big undertaking."