Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal, on Monday sent a letter to International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach, touting the Sunshine State as an ideal venue.
‘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.
‘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,’ he said.
In the letter, Patronis touted Florida’s hotel capacity and transportation infrastructure, and noted that the state had hosted the 2020 NBA ‘bubble’ and had allowed college and professional sports to continue with spectators.
‘Additionally, our international tourist destinations, like Disney parks have been open and operating safely in Florida for some time. In fact, Disney serves as an incredible model for how to run a complex organization in the midst of COVID-19,’ Patronis wrote.
Japan has a population of 126 million and has seen a cumulative 369,000 COVID-19 cases and 5,193 deaths, while Florida has a population of 21 million and has recorded 1.7 million cases and more than 25,000 deaths.
The National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2021 Olympics, is seen. A Florida official is now offering to host the Games if Japan backs out
Ben Griffin Stadium in Gainesville is the largest stadium in Florid with a capacity of 88,548. If the state hosted the Olympics in a last-minute swap, it could be used as one of the venues
Patronis also touted the strength of the state’s vaccine rollout, saying the vaccine ‘moves fast to protect our communities’ in Florida.
Florida has administered about 53 percent of the doses it has received, according to Bloomberg, making it about the middle of the pack in states.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has faced criticism from some for pursuing a more relaxed pandemic strategy, allowing businesses to remain open and eschewing lockdowns.
Though the state has recorded about 25,000 deaths, it has one of the largest populations in the nation, and per capita deaths in Florida are lower than 25 other states. New Jersey and New York lead the nation in per capita deaths.
‘Whatever precautions are required let’s figure it out and get it done,’ Patronis said.
It followed reports last week that Japanese officials had privately said that there was no way to move forward with the Summer Olympics there.
The Games, already postponed from last year due to the pandemic, would be cancelled entirely if they are not held this summer. Tokyo would next have a chance to host in 2032, the soonest games that have not selected a city.
Last Friday, Japanese officials insisted they would be sticking to holding the Games during the planned dates of July 23 until August 8.
‘I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,’ said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
IOC president Bach said last week there was ‘no reason whatsoever’ for the event not to go ahead, but also admitted it may involve fewer fans, or even be held behind closed doors.
Olympic Rings are displayed near National Stadium in Tokyo. With just less than six months to go until the start of the Games, it has been reported that the Japanese authorities are reluctant
Decisions on whether to allow overseas fans, and how full venues will be, are set to be taken in the coming months.
Athlete pressure was seen as a driving force behind last year’s postponement, with the Australian and Canadian Olympic committees pulling their teams out days before the decision was made.
This time, Australia, Canada and the United States have come out in support of the Games, and Greek pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi — who led calls for last year’s postponement — has said she would prefer it to be held with no fans than not at all.
Top US gymnast Simone Biles said the decision had to be based on ‘what’s safe for the world’, but added she was ‘hoping the Olympics can be put on, even if it means we’re in a bubble’.
But Japanese gymnastics star Kohei Uchimura sounded a note of caution, saying the event ‘can’t be held if the athletes and the people don’t feel the same way’.